The government's long-awaited "stress-test" results have found that 10 of the nation's 19 largest banks need a total of about $75 billion in new capital to withstand losses if the recession worsened.
The Federal Reserve's findings, released Thursday, show the financial system, like the overall economy, is healing but not yet healed.
Some of the largest banks are stable, the tests found. But others need billions more in capital — a signal by regulators that the industry is vulnerable but viable. Government officials have said a stronger banking system is needed for an economic rebound.
Officials hope the tests will restore investors' confidence that not all banks are weak, and that even those that are can be strengthened. They have said none of the banks will be allowed to fail.
The banks that need more capital will have until June 8 to develop a plan and have it approved by their regulators.
Among the 10 banks that need to raise more capital, the tests said Bank of America Corp. needs by far the most: $33.9 billion. Wells Fargo & Co. requires $13.7 billion, GMAC LLC $11.5 billion and Citigroup Inc. $5.5 billion.
Some of the firms that need more capital already are announcing their strategies. Morgan Stanley, which the government says needs $1.8 billion in new capital, said it plans to raise $5 billion. That will include $2 billion in common stock.
The tests found that if the recession were to worsen, losses at the 19 stress-tested firms during 2009 and 2010 could total $600 billion.
"Looking at the big picture, you can say that things aren't so bad for the financial industry as a whole," said Kevin Logan, chief U.S. economist at Dresdner Kleinwort.
But Logan said attracting fresh capital will be a challenge for banks that need it.
"The banking industry is not going to make a lot of money going forward, and that's a dilemma for keeping banks solvent and getting them lending," he said.
Financial stocks surged in after-hours trading, after the report was released at 5 p.m. Citigroup shares jumped 8.4 percent to $4.13, while State Street rose 7.3 percent to $40.60. Earlier, the markets had been down.
The government's unprecedented decision to publicly release bank exams has led some critics to question whether the findings are credible. Some said regulators seemed so intent on sustaining public confidence in the banks that the results would have to find the banks basically healthy, even if some need to raise more capital.
Jaidev Iyer, a former risk management chief at Citigroup, said regulators are playing to public expectations, which could put the government in the role of creating "winners and losers."
Because the government has said it won't let any firm fold, that could put taxpayers on the hook more than a confidential test would have, he said.
"If there is in fact no appetite to let losers fail, then the real losers are the market at large, the government and the taxpayers," Iyer said.