NEW YORK -- The thrift industry's worst problems appear to be receding.
"In spite of the continuing national economic recession and persisting real estate depression, a smaller, but healthy and profitable thrift industry was emerging as the 1991 year ended," notes an analyst at Ferguson & Co., a financial data publishing company.
While more weak thrifts are expected to fall by the wayside, Con Rusling, president of Sheshunoff Information Services, maintains that "the number of insolvent thrifts has declined from a high of 606 at year-end 1989 to 100 at the end of the third quarter (1991)."
Data released by the Office of Thrift Supervision suggests that the disposition of failed and failing thrifts may be nearly two-thirds complete, reports Veribanc, a banking research firm.
Veribanc also said that both S&Ls and banks saw declines in foreclosed property holdings during the third quarter, the first such drops in more than two years.
Last week California's largest thrifts announced hefty gains for the fourth quarter of 1991, which produced a good year overall.
"The thrift industry has turned the corner," said Lawrence Vitale, an analyst with Kemper Securities Group Inc. As the economy improves, argues Mr. Vitale, the construction industry will gain, in turn boosting financial companies. Investors, he says, should consider taking a financial position in carefully selected thrifts.