Standard & Poor's Corp. has put its ratings on 22 national and regional banking companies and one thrift firm, as well as their various units, on watch for downgrade, saying the companies could face downgrades within 90 days.

The agency made its announcement Monday, just days before the federal government is scheduled to release results of its stress tests on 19 banking companies.

S&P is reviewing capital levels and expected losses during the next two years to determine whether the companies need more capital to maintain current ratings.

So far, S&P said, its review shows capital needs which could result in single- or multiple-notch downgrades for the companies, which include Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp.

S&P said it will examine the firms' portfolios in the next several weeks to identify which are most vulnerable. The companies' experience, as well as their client mix, underwriting standards and geography, will also play a part in the review, the agency said.

Despite the lowered expectations for the industry, S&P said it believes most of the rated institutions will be able to earn their way out of their credit losses during the cycle.

Some of the companies that avoid a downgrade could be slapped with a negative outlook, S&P said, since longer-term downgrade potential of up to two years could be a factor.

Wells Fargo & Co. and U.S. Bancorp have the highest ratings among the companies affected by S&P's announcement; both have credit ratings of AA, or two notches below AAA. Citizens Republic Bancorp Inc. and First National Bank of Omaha have the lowest ratings; both are rated at BBB-minus.

Other companies put on watch for downgrade included BB&T Corp., Capital One Financial Corp., Comerica Inc., KeyCorp and PNC Financial Services Group Inc.

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