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Are mid-sized banks safe from crisis?

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Scott Jagow: The collapse of Bear Stearns has people wondering if another bank is going down. This week, there’s concern about some mid-sized banks, like Washington Mutual or National City. They’re heavily exposed to mortgages. Marketplace’s Dan Grech has more.


Dan Grech: Just how exposed is Washington Mutual? The Seattle-based bank has 71 percent of its loans in real estate. And National City, headquartered in Cleveland, has more than half its money in mortgages.

Diane Swonk is chief economist at Mesirow Financial. She says many regional and mid-sized banks may be in peril.

Diane Swonk: Banks that are particularly heavily exposed to the California, Florida market, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Ohio. Those are the places that have the most risk for mortgage defaults and mortgage failures.

The fear is that regional bank failures would have a domino effect on the entire financial system.

But Swonk said the Federal Reserve’s aggressive moves, from its bailout of Bearn Stearns to its interest rates cuts, are calming nerves.

Swonk: The Fed is really ready to step in and help these deals get done and make sure we don’t get any more collateral damage, even from mid-tier banks going down.

I’m Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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