In his conversations with industry leaders, credit union economist Dave Colby said he has detected skepticism about an economic recovery.
“More importantly, CU leaders clearly affirm members’ attitudes and financial actions imply they have yet to feel the recovery and/or don’t trust its sustainability,” wrote Colby, chief economist at CUNA Mutual Group, in the company’s April issue of the Credit Union Trends Report.
Colby said while the U.S. economy is expanding, risk factors such as Iran and North Korea could derail any positive momentum.
“The only thing CUs can control is what they do for members. Don’t miss this opportunity to use low interest rates to improve member households’ finances,” Colby offered.
Indeed, credit unions are experiencing some bright spots. Annual loan growth moved up to 1.9% in February thanks to contributions from first mortgages, used vehicles and member business loans, according to the trends report, which tracked data through February.
Colby said the biggest contributors to the improvement since February 2011 were first mortgages ($11.3 billion), used vehicles ($6 billion) and MBLs ($2.8 billion).
Detracting from gains were home equity/second mortgages ($6.1 billion) and new vehicle loans ($3.9 billion). Colby said on a year-to-date basis, the only portfolio segment in positive territory is first mortgages.
Meanwhile, members continue to boost their savings, with many opting for liquid deposit accounts, the data showed. Share drafts (0.26% yield) were up 10.9% since February 2011 and regular shares (0.27% yield) were up 9.3%.
Money market accounts (0.42% yield) increased 7.9% while certificates of deposit were down 3.5% with one-year yields falling to 0.966%. CDs are now $33 billion (13.6%) off their March 2009 peak, according to the report.
“Growth improvements are forecast in 2012, but cautious consumers and historically low interest rates will preclude much stronger loan portfolio gains,” Colby said.