Banks have nearly picked the last of the low-hanging earnings fruit.
After ten quarters where reductions in loan-loss cushions made up perhaps 10% to 30% of industrywide net income, reserve releases showed clear signs of tapering at the end of 2012. In fourth quarter reports, executives at big banks warned that credit quality is stabilizing after a dramatic post-recession recovery, though they said improvement in the housing market could open up another reservoir from which to draw down allowances. (The following graphic presents data on individual banks in the first tab and industrywide data in the second. Interactive controls are described in the captions. Text continues below.)