A Mixed US Economy: Banks Strengthen, New Home Sales Fall

Posted August 23rd, 2011 at 12:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Two new reports Tuesday give a decidedly mixed view of the U.S. economy, with fewer banks in the country at risk of failing, but a housing market that is stuck in a pronounced slump.

The government agency that insures the safety of consumers' bank deposits said there were 23 fewer banks at risk in the April to June period, the first quarterly drop in five years. But that still left 865 problem banks in country, about one of every nine financial institutions.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation also said the country's banks are regaining their financial strength in the aftermath of the country's recession in 2008 and 2009. The agency said the more than 7,500 banks in the country reported a total profit of nearly $29 billion in the quarter, up 38 percent from the same period a year ago. Collectively, U.S. banks have now been profitable for the last two years.

But the Commerce Department reported that new home sales fell for the third straight month in July, to an annual rate of just under 300,000. Economists consider 700,000 sales a healthy market, but sales at the current pace could result in the worst year for new home sales in the nearly 50 years that records have been kept.

Housing is the weakest part of the sluggish American economy. U.S. banks have taken ownership of millions of homes, foreclosing on their owners when they were unable to make their monthly loan payments after losing their jobs.