Construction loans

The Automatic Earth notes an article in the WSJ and says:

Scores of banks were already suffering headaches by the end of the first quarter, according to a _newsreview by The Wall Street Journal of FDIC-filed reports by 6,919 banks that make construction loans. The smallest banks, those with total assets of less than $5 billion, faced the biggest problems. The WSJ analysis didn’t include savings-and-loan institutions, or so-called thrift banks.

Nearly one in three of the banks analyzed — or 2,182 — had construction-loan portfolios that exceeded 100% of their total risk-based capital, a red flag to regulators, although it doesn’t mean the bank is in danger of failing. Risk-based capital is a cushion that banks can dig into to cover losses. Even more alarming, 73 of those banks had construction-loan delinquency rates of more than 25%.

Larger regional banks also face mounting construction-loan problems, but are in decent shape. Thirty-eight of them had more than 100% of their total risk-based capital in construction loans at the end of the first quarter, but only nine of those faced delinquency rates of more than 10%.

Over the next few quarters, banks are expected to begin recording much larger losses. In 2007 and the first quarter of this year, U.S. banks wrote down just 0.7% of their residential construction and land assets as bad debt, according to Zelman & Associates, a research firm. Over the next five years that figure could rise to 10% and 26%, which would amount to about $65 billion to $165 billion, Zelman projects.