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The fund insuring deposits at the nation's 11,735 banks is back in the black for the first time in nearly two years, regulators said Tuesday.

At the end of March, the balance of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s bank insurance fund was $1.2 billion, up from negative $101 million at the end of 1992 and negative $7.03 billion a year before that. The fund last reported a positive balance on June 30, 1991, when it was $4.5 billion.

Only seven banks failed during the first three months of this year, compared with 35 during the first three months of last year.

The agency's list of problem commercial and savings banks fell to 743 at the end of March, the lowest in more than 10 years.

Despite the good news, the FDIC board voted not to lower the premiums paid by banks during the second half of this year.

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