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Troubled banks made up about 12 pct of total in Q1

WASHINGTON — The number of U.S. banks at risk of failing made up nearly 12 percent of all federally insured banks in the first three months of 2011, the highest level in 18 years.

That proportion is about the same as in the October-December quarter last year, though the increase in the number of banks on the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s confidential “problem” list is slowing. The FDIC added only four banks to its list in the January-March quarter. That brought the total to 888 from 884. Banks on the list are deemed by examiners to have very low capital cushions against risk.

The industry reported its highest earnings as a group in the January-March quarter, $29 billion, since before the financial crisis hit more than three years ago.