The Biggest Banking Crisis Of Our Lifetime Is Already Upon Us And It’s Worse Than You Think

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A 10-billion-dollar bank was just shut down by U.S. regulators in the first big bank failure of 2024. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation announced the collapse of another major financial institution just a few days ago, the sixth of such kind over the last 12 months. The event has triggered fears of cascading bank failures, with economists warning about rising risks and mounting stress for almost 300 institutions. As economic uncertainty continues to weight on financial markets and add pressure on the commercial real estate sector, many banks that seem too big to fail are now facing unprecedented losses that could put them on a very destructive path, the experts say.

In the final days of April, Republic First Bank, a Pennsylvania-based financial institution has collapsed. Earlier this week, the FDIC issued a note saying it had stepped in to protect $6 billion in assets and $4 billion in customer deposits. The federal agency transferred the deposits to another regional bank after an agreement was reached.

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Struggling under the regime of higher interest rates, Republic First Bancorp suffered painful losses due to its high exposure to the commercial real estate market. The bank’s fourth quarter report cited “serious difficulties amid an elevated interest rate environment,” with executives noting last year that the Fed’s monetary policy to curb inflation “severely hurt” its commercial real estate portfolio.

The sector, which has been facing numerous challenges since the COVID-19 pandemic, accounted for nearly half of Republic Bank’s loan book. The institution was also facing other significant problems, including low liquidity and battles with activist investors. In October 2023, Republic Bank managed to secure $35 million in funding from a group of investors led by George Norcross, but that plan fell apart in February.

Now, another regional lender has come forward to rescue the bank’s assets. Fellow Pennsylvania-based bank Fulton Financial Corp has agreed to acquire all of Republic’s assets and over $5.3 billion in liabilities. On Saturday, Republic Bank’s 32 branches in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York will reopen as branches of Fulton Bank, reports say.

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The move represents the latest crack – and the latest bandage job – in the distressed regional-banking industry. The failure marked the first major bank collapse of this year, following five that occurred in 2023, as the Fed’s rate hikes destabilized the balance sheets of big financial players. When Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) collapsed last spring, many economists warned that more could follow – and their predictions have been proven accurate. Signature Bank, First Republic Bank, Heartland Tri-State Bank, and Citizens Bank, all collapsed in the succeeding months, as a result of the financial instability caused by policymakers.

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