Capital One Financial, Fifth Third Bancorp, KeyCorp, Huntington Bancshares and SunTrust Banks announced sharp fourth-quarter losses on Thursday, the start of a trickle of red ink at the nation's small and midsize lenders that could result in a flood of mergers in an industry that is already consolidating.
Most of these banks were never big players in credit cards, subprime mortgages or credit-default swaps. But they were major lenders to commercial real estate developers, home builders and small corporations. As the recession tightens, losses have started to surge.
“There will not be the shock and awe factor” of the big bank losses, said Nancy A. Bush, a longtime banking analyst. But “small and midsize banks are up to their eyeballs in commercial real estate related to residential development and business loans. We are going to see a reckoning with how bad that got” in 2009.