U.S. bank industry posts highest earnings since 2006

WASHINGTON,| Tue Dec 4, 2012 — The U.S. banking industry’s third-quarter earnings were the highest for any quarter since 2006 as revenue growth picked up and banks set aside less money to guard against losses, according to data released on Tuesday by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The FDIC quarterly report showed the industry earned $37.6 billion in the third quarter – up $2.3 billion, or 6.6 percent, from a year earlier.

That was the industry’s highest quarterly total since the third quarter of 2006, the FDIC said.

And while banks again reduced the amount of funds they set aside in case of losses, revenue growth contributed more to the earnings boost in the third quarter, bucking a recent trend, FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg said.

“Loan growth is becoming more established,” Gruenberg said. “Banks continue to clean up and strengthen their balance sheets.”

The report is an encouraging sign that the banking industry is slowly but surely healing after the 2007-2009 financial crisis, although some bigger banks are cutting jobs to cope with persistent pressures, including an industry-wide decline in trading volume.

Net operating revenues rose $4.9 billion, or 3 percent, from a year earlier, the FDIC said. Much of the increase came from asset sales, particularly loan sales.