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Regional Banks Miss Estimates with Big Losses

Regional banks posted mostly lower earnings that reflected bad times behind them but still more difficult sledding to come.

Fifth Thirdreported a much wider-than-expected loss Thursday, but said its tier 1 capital ratio was strong at more than 10 percent.

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The company lost $3.82 a share in the most recent quarter. Analysts surveyed by Reuters expected the company to break even.

SunTrust Banksposted a surprise fourth-quarter lossas the large U.S. Southeast regional bank significantly increased the amount of money it set aside to cover loan losses.

The Atlanta-based lender reported a loss of $379.7 million, or $1.08 per share, compared with year-earlier net income of $3.3 million, or 1 cent a share.

Revenue rose 9 percent from the year-ago period to $1.93 billion.

Analysts on average expected a profit of 6 cents per share on revenue of $2.16 billion, according to Reuters Estimates.

KeyCorp posted a loss of $1.13 per share in the fourth quarter, compared with expectations of a small loss of only one cent per share by Reuters analysts.

Bucking the trend, M&T Bank said fourth-quarter profit rose 57 percent, as deposits and commercial loans grew, and the mid-Atlantic regional bank boosted reserves for credit losses more slowly than many rivals.

Net income for the Buffalo, N.Y.-based lender, which counts Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway among its largest investors, increased to $102.2 million, or 92 cents per share, from $64.9 million, or 60 cents, a year earlier.

Comerica reported a profit of 2 cents per share from 79 cents in the fourth quarter of 2007 and said it expects to reduce its workforce by 5 percent.

Its results for the fourth quarter 2008 included a $192 million provision for loan losses. Its net interest margin fell to 2.82 percent from 3.11 percent in the third quarter, Comerica said in a statement.

And CIT Group showed a wider fourth quarter loss, after putting aside more money for bad loans.

The commercial lender posted a loss to common shareholders of $204 million, compared with a loss of $131 million in the same quarter last year. Its loss per share was flat at 69 cents because of an increase in outstanding a shares from a year earlier.

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