Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Creighton's Rural Mainstreet Index Slumps Below Growth Neutral: Farm Loan Defaults Expected to Double from 2017 Rates

From Creighton University's Heider School of Business, May 16:
May Survey Results at a Glance:
  • For the first time since November the Rural Mainstreet Index (RMI) fell below growth neutral.
  • Bank CEOs project the percentage of farm loan defaults over the next 12 months will double the default rates for 2017.
  • In reaction to weak farm income, almost two-thirds of bankers have increased collateral for farm loans.
  • More than one in four bankers reports rejecting a higher percentage of farm loans due to declining farm income.
  • The economic confidence index dropped to its lowest level in almost two years.
OMAHA, Neb. (May 16, 2019) – The Creighton University Rural Mainstreet Index (RMI) for May slumped below growth neutral for the month. According to the monthly survey of bank CEOs in rural areas of a 10-state region dependent on agriculture and/or energy, the RMI for May indicated negative growth for the month for the region, after five months of growth.      

Overall: The overall index for May slipped to 48.5 from 50.0 in April. This is the first time since November of last year the index has fallen below growth neutral, indicating negative growth for the month. The index ranges between 0 and 100 with 50.0 representing growth neutral.
“The trade tensions and tariffs are hammering the farming economy. Grain farmers throughout the region continue to experience losses produced by trade issues and plentiful global supplies.  On the other hand, the expanding U.S. domestic economy is supporting livestock producers in the region. For May, according to bankers, the negatives far outweighed the positives,” said Ernie Goss, PhD, Jack A. MacAllister Chair in Regional Economics at Creighton University’s Heider College of Business.  
According to Lonnie Clark, president of the State Bank of Chandler in Chandler, Minnesota, “The current low farm commodity prices are a negative to farmers.”

Farming and ranching: The farmland and ranchland-price index for May sank to 41.2 from April’s 45.2. This is the 66th straight month the index has remained below growth neutral 50.0. 
The May farm equipment-sales index increased to 31.3 from April’s 27.4. This marks the 69th straight month that the reading has fallen below growth neutral 50.0.
As stated by Jim Eckert, president of Anchor State Bank in Anchor, Illinois, “Our area has been very wet, although not as wet as some areas I saw in Indiana last weekend. Very little farm work has been done here and when it dries a bit, farmers will be forced to plant in less than optimum field conditions.”  

Bankers were asked to project the growth in farm loan defaults for the next 12 months. On average, bankers expect farm loan defaults to climb by 10.9 percent. This is more than double the estimated rate of growth just two years ago.  

In reaction to higher default rates, almost two-thirds, or 61.8 percent of bankers, increased collateral requirements, and more 41.2 percent rejected a higher percentage of farm loan applications. 

Banking: Borrowing by farmers for May remained very strong as the borrowing index slipped to 79.7 from April’s record high 81.3, a record high. The checking-deposit index slumped to 42.4 from April’s 50.0, while the index for certificates of deposit and other savings instruments rose to 51.5 from 50.1 in April.....