First Financial to post loss for quarter

First Financial Holdings of Charleston expects to record a loan-loss provision of between $44 million-$46 million for the second quarter of fiscal year 2010, it announced Wednesday.

The parent of First Federal Savings and Loan Association reported that the increased provision brings the company’s allowance for loan losses at the end of the quarter to approximately $82 million, according to information filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. 

Second quarter 2010 net charge-offs are expected to be between $36 million and $38 million.

As a result of the increased loan-loss provision, First Financial will show a loss for the quarter, the company added.

“We have now completed our review of the land and acquisition and development loan portfolios and we have appropriately reserved or charged-off identified losses in those portfolios,” Chief Executive Thomas Hood said in a press release.

“We expect the review of other commercial real estate and business loans greater than $1 million to be completed by June 30, 2010,” Hood added. “As stated last quarter, we believe loan loss provisions and charge-offs will remain elevated through fiscal 2010 because of the continued deterioration in the real estate sector and the weak economy.”

First Financial will announce its second quarter earnings on April 27.

Shares of First Financial were off sharply in trading Thursday morning, down more than $1 at $14.35.


Cotton acreage on the rise nationwide

North Carolina farmers say they will plant more cotton this year, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s Prospective Plantings report released March 31.

Farmers’ plans to plant 540,000 acres of cotton mark a sharp turnaround for the crop, according to Southeast Farm Press. The 44 percent increase in acreage comes after three straight years of declines.

“Cotton acreage had been on a downward spiral as farmers switched to soybeans and corn, which were paying better prices,” said NC Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Now, worldwide cotton supply is lower, which means higher demand and better prices for farmers.”

Further north in Virginia, there are also indications that cotton acreage could grow significantly.

“We are expecting to see anywhere from a 10 to 12 percent increase in plantings in Virginia this year,” Spencer Neale, senior assistant director of commodity marketing for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, told Farm Press.

“Prices are looking very good. In fact, it is the best we have seen in several years, as the economy is turning around and people are starting to buy more clothing,” he said. “That is what is really helping push the upswing.”

Nationwide, US cotton producers intend to plant 10.5 million acres in 2010, which is 15 percent higher than last year and the first increase following three straight years of declines. The increase is due to rising cotton futures prices, plus lower expected returns for corn and soybeans.

 Growers intend to increase planted area in all states except Arkansas, Kansas and Louisiana.