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Indicators: March 25

Stress Test

March 25, 2009, 12:00 am

8.6   million of “troubled assets” were held by the four banks headquartered in Santa Fe as of Dec. 31, 2007.

66.4 million worth of troubled assets were held by the same banks one year later.

"Geithner is increasingly a troubled asset himself."­—Time Magazine last week on the “hapless” US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

Stop. Now, breathe. Don’t freak out. Your checking account should be fine. The feds are still insuring bank deposits. In fact, the banks have to file dense, detailed reports with the Federal Deposit Insurance

Last week, journalism instructors at American University in Washington, DC compiled FDIC reports for all 8,300 US banks. They also calculated a handy “troubled asset ratio.” In short, that’s the percentage of a bank’s assets that aren’t worth much—including loans past due for 90 days or more, loans that stopped earning interest and real estate (usually gained through foreclosures).

The higher that ratio, the more trouble for the bank. Among all US banks, the median was 9.9. Among New Mexico banks, it was 5.5. Whew.

But two Albuquerque banks ranked among the nation’s most burdened—High Desert State Bank (123.7) and Bank 1st (94.5).

The First National Bank of Santa Fe was doing well, with a troubled asset ratio of only 1.8. Community Bank’s ratio also was better than average: 4.2.

Century Bank fared worse, with a troubled asset ratio of 23.7. Los Alamos National Bank saw its non-interest-paying loans nearly triple in 2008, to $34.8 million. That left LANB with a troubled asset ratio of 27.6.

Charter Bank, the largest Santa Fe-based bank by far, also had the biggest exposure to bad loans, with a ratio of 57.9. Charter President Glenn Wertheim says this is because the bank financed more land purchases and construction projects than other New Mexico banks. “In our case, the construction market has been very, very slow. That’s the real issue for us,” Wertheim says. “We’re not happy about troubled assets, but underneath that are builders that are really struggling.” On the upside, he adds, New Mexico’s real estate market has fared well compared to California, Arizona and Florida; and Santa Fe homes have become more affordable.

More numbers at


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