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Milwaukee-area bank profits slowly regain momentum
Milwaukee Business Journal
Southeast Wisconsin banks are lagging their peers in returning to profitability, as the banks continue taking their lumps from the real estate market. Nineteen of 35 southeast Wisconsin community banks tracked by The Business Journal posted profits in the fourth quarter, representing 54.3 percent of area banks. Statewide and nationwide, more than 80 percent of banks were profitable. Executives at many of the unprofitable banks believe they now have accounted for the bulk of their distressed loans. They started 2012 with a cleaner slate and some of those banks are in a better position to make loans. "I'm confident that these banks are going to turn around," said Rose Oswald Poels, president and chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Bankers Association. "It's just a little bit of a longer process for some of them." Milwaukee Business Journal

Court deal sets recall date of June 5, needs judge's OK
Wisconsin State Journal
Recall elections for Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican senators will be held on June 5 under an agreement presented in court Tuesday by lawyers for the recall committees, the state Government Accountability Board and the recall targets. The parties all agreed that the state elections agency should be granted an extension until March 30 to certify recall petitions. The agreement awaits a formal written order that Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess can sign. With this agreement, the primaries would be held on May 8 with the general election four weeks later, on June 5. The current deadline for the GAB to finish its work is March 19. However, the GAB's doesn't expect to finish certifying the sufficiency or insufficiency of the recall petitions until March 30. Republicans have encouraged the GAB to hold any recalls on the same date to reduce costs. Wisconsin State Journal

Stress Tests Show How Fed Pushed Banks to Bolster Balance Sheets
Bloomberg
The resilience of the largest U.S. financial firms when tested against a recession more severe than the last one shows regulators have succeeded in pushing banks to build fortress-like balance sheets. The Fed yesterday said 15 of 19 banks would be able to maintain capital levels above a regulatory minimum in an "extremely adverse" economic scenario, even while continuing to pay dividends and repurchasing stock. Regulators have redesigned their approach to bank supervision. They now place greater emphasis on systemic risk as they seek to avoid a repeat of the crisis of 2008. The four banks which failed the stress test were Citigroup, SunTrust Banks Inc., Ally Financial Inc. and MetLife Inc. Bloomberg

Credit unions, banks grabbing a share of payday loan dollars
LA Times
Payday loans, for years a fixture in poor, working-class neighborhoods, are increasingly being offered by local banks and employee credit unions - triggering concerns by consumer groups that more Americans will be trapped in high-interest loans that could take years to pay off. More than two dozen regional and community banks now offer versions of these loans, most starting their programs since 2007. The biggest increase, however, has come at credit unions. Nearly 400 now are in the market, attracted by a 2010 change in regulations that boosted the maximum interest rate on payday loans to 28 percent from 18 percent. Credit unions and banks said they have jumped into the business because there is a growing need for short-term loans and they can offer them to their customers on better terms than storefront payday lenders. Consumer advocates cautioned that any short-term, high-interest-rate loan is a bad deal for the customer. LA Times

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