A total of 56 US banks have now failed since the global credit crisis and recession erupted in 2007.

Four failed on Friday alone in the US, the worst day so far. That took the number this year to 29, four more than the 25 failures in 2008, which included the biggest ever, Washington Mutual.

Friday’s failures cost the main regulator, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, around $US700 million.

This list contains the list of every US bank failure since 2000. 71 US banks have failed since 2001.

The first four months of this year have now seen more banks fail than all of 2008, when 25 banks went bust. In fact 12 of those 25 US banks failed in the December quarter. That means 41 banks has collapsed in the past seven months, or almost six a month.

Three failed in 2007, two of them after the crisis erupted on August 9 and 10. So far, 56 US banks have collapsed since September 2007.

The latest closures saw banks in Idaho, Michigan, Georgia and California shut down over a four hour period at the end of a day when the first details about the stress tests of the 19 biggest banks were released.

The Federal Reserve said on Friday that the top 19 banks need to hold a “substantial” amount of capital above regulatory requirements to weather a potential worsening of the economic recession.

Its white paper on bank stress tests was outlined, but didn’t provide any details of the test results. That will come on May 4.

The failure in Georgia was the 5th in that state so far this year; the failure in California (Beverley Hills no less) was the 4th so far in 2009, the banks in Michigan and Idaho were the first this year in both states. The Idaho failure was in fact the first since 1988.

The FDIC said that insured institutions reported a net loss of $US32.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008, a decline of $US32.7 billion from the $US575 million that the industry earned in the fourth quarter of 2007 and the first quarterly loss since 1990.

Rising loan-loss provisions, large writedowns of goodwill and other assets, and sizable losses in trading accounts all contributed to the industry’s net loss. But the group said that more than two-thirds of all insured institutions were profitable in the fourth quarter, but their earnings were outweighed by large losses at a number of big banks.

The four failures also came at the end of a week of quarterly reports that showed only a handful of US banks were making anything near solid returns, and most of those profits came from trading activities at the likes of Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Well Fargo and Citigroup. These banks used cheap money from the Fed and guarantees to lend at higher rates and increase their profit margins (interest spreads) on trading deals.

Regional banks on the whole were not profitable and suffered from rising poor property and business loans, plus soaring credit card and car loan debt, which also hit the likes of Citigroup, JPMorgan, AmEx and other card groups as well.

In Australia the NAB reports its interim tomorrow, the ANZ on Wednesday. But on Friday Macquarie Group reports its 2009 full year profit and that will be the most important result of all for the local banks and the markets.

Peter Fray

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