Regions Financial ( RF) on late Thursday became the latest bank stung by the weak housing and credit markets, as it said it would set aside $360 million to cover bad loans in the fourth quarter. Birmingham, Ala.-based Regions cited weakening credit conditions in its portfolio of residential builder loans in hard-hit housing markets like Florida and Georgia for its decision to increase its provision by about $270 million in the third quarter. The loans represent $7.5 billion, or about 8%, of the bank's $95 billion portfolio. "We are experiencing a sharp slowdown in real estate demand, especially in parts of Florida and Georgia, and are responding aggressively to counter its effects," said Regions Chairman and CEO Dowd Ritter. "We are closely monitoring the impact of the declines in housing demand and values on our borrowers and are acting quickly to address current areas of weakness."
A growing number of banks, ranging from large institutions like Wells Fargo ( WFC) to regional players like Fifth Third ( FITB) have recently set aside provisions for expected loan losses. Regions also expects to record about $131 million in additional pretax charges in the fourth quarter, due to investment losses and partner Visa's settlement of an antitrust lawsuit with rival American Express ( AMX) over bank-issued credit cards.