NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Broadly speaking, banks aren't lending, and consumers don't want any more debt. But, by combing through regulatory filings, we were able to find a number of U.S. banks that grew their loan portfolios organically in the third quarter, and have highlighted 10 of them for this article.
The real story of lending growth can be found at smaller banks across the country, according to data from filings with the Securities and Exchange Commissions analyzed by TheStreet.com using Edgar Online's I-Metrix application. Our search found a number of publicly-traded banks that grew their loan portfolios last quarter, which we then determined had done so without the help of M&A during the period through our own analysis. To be sure, the ones we're highlighting are small, with total assets ranging from $138 million for Southern Connecticut Bancorp ( SSE) to Smithtown Bancorp's ( SMTB) $2.7 billion, but the list still offers evidence that some banks are doing their part to get money back in the system. In general, banks have been cutting credit lines, denying new loan applications and writing off bad debt as a growing number of consumers and businesses have been unable to pay their bills. Many of those keeping up with their debt have retrenched into a mode of paying down existing loans and saving extra funds, afraid to take on more debt in an unstable economy. Overall, loans and leases have been cut by more than 8% during the past year -- especially commercial loans -- while consumers have curtailed use of credit cards and other revolving debt by more than 13% and reduced more stable, non-revolving debt by 3.7%. But there are still small pockets of growth in the loan business for banks that don't feel the need to store all their excess capital at the Federal Reserve. Some consumers are still looking for money to buy homes, cars, education and merchandise, and some businesses are still expanding. That's especially true in areas of the country that weren't hit hard by the boom-and-bust real estate cycle, or energy-producing regions that are still expanding rather rapidly. It's difficult to tell what banks are posting "organic" loan growth - meaning they are extending fresh credit - because of the dozens of acquisitions that have taken place during the crisis. A wave of government-incentivized mortgage refinancing has also arguably skewed results.
Even so, the biggest banks that made the biggest acquisitions are whittling down their loan portfolios. Bank of America ( BAC) acquired the biggest mortgage lender, Countrywide Financial; JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) acquired Washington Mutual, the biggest bank to ever fail, and Wells Fargo ( WFC) bought Wachovia, another large lender. Despite those mammoth deals, and despite each company's breadth and diversity, each saw its loan portfolio shrink by between 3-to-5% last quarter, as did Citigroup ( C). The only bank from among those we're highlighting to post double-digit loan growth was First of Long Island Corp. ( FLIC), a Glen Head, N.Y.-based bank with total assets of $1.5 billion. Shares of the company, which posted sequential organic loan growth of 10%, are up nearly 15% year-to-date, lagging behind a roughly 30% gain for the S&P 500 index. Geographically, the banks willing to lend were clustered in the Northeast, which featured six of the 10 companies, including New Jersey's Oritani Financial ( ORIT), DNB Financial ( DNBF) of Downington, Pa., and Commercefirst Bancorp ( CMFB), headquartered in Annapolis, Md., in addition to the previously mentioned First of Long Island Corp., Southern Connecticut Bancorp, and Smithtown Bancorp. While property values have sunk in the Northeast along with everywhere else, the region is generally considered to have held up better than most of the country. The two banks from the South hail from nearly opposite ends of the region. Capital Bank Corp. ( CBKN) is based in Raleigh, N.C. and was able to organically grow its loan book by 4.9% through both commercial and consumer loans, although it did cut back on home equity lines. Meantime, Louisiana Bancorp ( LABC) has been extending credit in the New Orleans area and has seen its stock rise nearly 18% over the past year. Broadway Financial Corp. ( BYFC) is the lone West Coast representative. The Los Angeles-based mortgage lender with total assets of $520 million posted sequential growth of 6.4% in its portfolio. While most of these stocks trade at low volumes and the companies operate on a level well-removed from their bigger bank brethren, they do offer investors exposure to banks that are actually putting money to work in the traditional sense: Lending it out. Written by Lauren LaCapra in New York.