Banks Reach 100-Failure Milestone for ’10

Most big banks have been reporting big earnings for 2Q10, but the steady drumbeat of failure among banks that aren't too big to fail continues. Almost every weekend, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. closes a few more and cleans up the mess largely left by bubble-era commercial real estate loans finally dragging their lenders down.

July 26, 2010
By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons user AMagill

Most big banks have been reporting big earnings for 2Q10, but the steady drumbeat of failure among banks that aren’t too big to fail continues. Almost every weekend, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. closes a few more and cleans up the mess largely left by bubble-era commercial real estate loans finally dragging their lenders down.

Last weekend was a milestone of sorts as the number of failed financial institutions passed 100 for this year. Seven banks, variously in Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota Nevada, Oregon and South Carolina, were seized by the FDIC, making the grand total for the year 103–and counting. In 2009, there were a total of 140 banks that went belly up; this time last year, only 64 had been shut down.

The number of ‘problem’ banks–those that the FDIC says are at risk of failing, but whose names the agency won’t disclose for obvious run-on-the-bank reasons–totaled 775 at the end of 1Q10, the highest in nearly 17 years. The number was 702 at the end of 2009.

Walmart Rolls Out RFID For Undies

Radio-frequency identification (RFID, or smart-label) technology has been kicking around for a while now, but when Wal-mart Stores Inc. says it’s going to start using it in a big way, that means the technology’s time has probably come. The retail behemoth’s goal–its immediate goal, since its ultimate goal is to Always Squeeze Costs–is to use the technology to keep better track of inventory.

The retailer is actually starting small, which really means big, considering how much merchandise is involved in any decision Walmart makes that affects any particular item the chain carries. The company plans to put RFID tags on jeans and underwear for now. The tags emit unique, and very weak, radio signals that scanners in the vicinity can read. A Walmart employee equipped with such a scanner and trained to know what to look for can tell quickly when a certain size or brand of undies (for example) needs restocking.

Predictably, the news, first reported last week in The Wall Street Journal, has privacy advocates clearing their throats about the dystopian uses RFID might be put to, such as tracking everything everyone buys after the items leave the store. For now, Walmart says that the RFID tags will be removed at checkout.

Mass Layoffs See Uptick in June

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, mass layoffs ticked upward in June, mass layoffs being actions to dismiss 50 or more workers at the same time. There were 7.2 percent more such actions in June than in May, affecting about 145,000 workers.

Before the recession (2004-2007), roughly 132,000 workers were idled in such mass layoffs each month, which was close to the May 2010 total as well. Some 1,647 companies (or other entities, such as school districts) laid off 50 or more workers during June, up from 1,412 companies and other entities in May.

Wall Street had an up day on Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing up 102.32 points, or 0.99 percent. The S&P 500 gained 0.82 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 1.05 percent.