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Fed Stress Tests Find Top Banks Are Strong, Setting Stage for Wave of Payouts - ABI

The Federal Reserve said yesterday that its annual tests of the financial strength of the 18 largest banks in the U.S. revealed that each had enough capital to justify paying some of it out to shareholders, the New York Times reported. There was one caveat to the Fed’s across-the-board thumbs-up: The central bank said it found weaknesses in how Credit Suisse was measuring potential losses, and the Fed therefore capped the amount of money the Swiss bank could return to its investors until it corrected the problem. The Fed’s “stress tests” examine how the largest banks would fare in a severe economic downturn or a sudden shock to the global financial markets. After a two-part evaluation, banks either receive permission to return capital — via repurchasing their own shares, paying dividends or other means — or are prohibited from doing so until they fortify their capital cushions or strengthen their management. Within minutes of the Fed releasing the test results, the country’s four largest banks — Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo — announced that they could repurchase a total of about $105 billion of their own shares. The four banks also said they would increase their dividends.

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