Saturday, January 23, 2010

Survey shows rural bankers' optimism is up

Confidence climbs amid signs of new hiring

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new survey of rural bankers in 11 Midwest and Plains states shows that the region’s economy remains weak but not enough to dampen bank­ers’ optimism for an econom­ic rally.

The overall index for the Rural Mainstreet eco­nomic report released late Thursday inched up in January, to 41 from 40.9 in December. That’s the fifth straight month the index has increased, but orga­nizers say the figure indi­cates significant economic weakness.

The index ranges between 0 and 100. A score below 50 suggests the economy will contract in the next few months.

The index has remained below 50 for 23 consecutive months, said survey organiz­ers Ernie Goss, a Creighton University economist, and Bill McQuillan, CEO of CNB Community Bank of Greeley, Neb.

“The uncertainty sur­rounding legislative changes coming from Washington, combined with economic weakness among mainstreet businesses linked to the farm sector, appear to be weighing on the rural, agriculturally dependent economy,” Goss said.

But bankers remained up­beat about future economic prospects. The monthly confidence index climbed to 59.7 from December’s 5 3 . 7 a n d N ove m ber’s 50.1.

Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Min­nesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming are surveyed.

The survey showed some signs of life in new hiring, with the new-hiring index rising from 33.4 in December to 40.1 — the highest since July 2008. But Goss noted the index has remained be­low 50 for 25 consecutive months.

No comments: