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Stock sales help U.S. offset losses from bailouts

/ Source: The Associated Press

Stock sales are helping the government offset projected losses from its $700 billion rescue of the financial system.

The Treasury Department has brought in $35 billion in revenue over two years, boosted by ongoing sales of Citigroup stock, new data released Friday showed. But the Congressional Budget Office projects taxpayers will still lose $25 billion for bailing out the financial sector and U.S. automakers.

The new total for revenue generated by the Troubled Asset Relief Program is up from the nearly $30 billion in income shown in the previous report covering the program's finances through October.

Much of the additional income came from the sale of Citigroup common stock. The Treasury sold off the last of its stake in the banking giant Tuesday, ending up with receipts of $12 billion above the government's investment of $45 billion.

Smaller amounts of income in November came from dividend payments from other banks that received support from the bailout fund, and also from dividends from the support provided to the former financing arm of General Motors.

The estimates of the government's total losses from the program have been declining. The CBO's estimate of $25 billion in losses were made in a report in November. That's down from August, when the CBO projected the government would lose $66 billion, and March, when the forecast for losses was $109 billion.

The new information on income over the life of the TARP program was included in a report that the Treasury Department is required to every month providing an accounting of its handling of the program.

In the latest report, Treasury included a new section that listed the top 25 banks in terms of the size of their current holdings of TARP funds. The aim was to increase transparency in the highly criticized program.

The report said that the top 25 banks were still holding a total of $26.4 billion received in TARP funds. The top four banks in the listing were SunTrust Banks Inc. of Atlanta, with $4.85 billion in government support; Regions Financial Corp. of Birmingham, Ala., with $3.5 billion; Fifth Third Bancorp of Cincinnati, with $3.41 billion in government support, and Key Corp of Cleveland with $2.5 billion in support.

The CBO's November report said the lower loss estimates resulted from two factors. One is the continued repurchases of preferred stock by banks that received the bailout funds. The other is a lower estimated cost for assistance to insurance giant American International Group and Chrysler and GM.

TARP was developed by the previous Bush administration and passed by Congress at the height of the financial crisis in October 2008. It became widely unpopular with the public.

Republicans used voter unhappiness with the bailout and soaring federal budget deficits to help pick up six Senate seats in the November elections and take control of the House.