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Wisconsin's banks doing a lot better than 3 months ago; 1 gives back federal TARP money

Wisconsin's banks are doing a lot better than they did three months ago.

The FDIC said the state's 283 banks made a combined $75.5 million from January-March.

That compares to losses of $1.8 billion in the final quarter of last year, a figured skewed by real estate investment losses at M&I Bank and Madison's Anchor Bank.

Only 29 Wisconsin banks did not make money in the most recent quarter.

Kurt Bauer of the state's Bankers Association credits a more stable economy, a boost in home refinancing, and the $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time home buyers.

But Bauer says the industry is not out of the woods just yet - and it still faces some tough challenges as the year goes on.

Meanwhile, a Manitowoc bank has become the first in the state to return federal TARP money.

Bank First National said Wednesday it re-purchased the $12.6 million in preferred stock it sold to the federal government in January.

Chief financial officer Lisa O'Neill said the decision was due to the program's high cost, changing rules, and negative public image.