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WASHINGTON-According to a recently completed study by the General Accounting Office (GAO), retailers would gain little from forcing banks to credit deposits over the weekend, though retailers and consumers would have faster access to their money. Earlier this year House Financial Institutions Subcommittee Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) requested a study of the issue, which the grocery industry had been lobbying hard for. “The potential interest earnings represented less than 1/100 of 1% of grocery industry sales for the year 2000, and they would have virtually no positive impact on earnings or productivity in the retail sector,” GAO’s study found. “If accelerated clearing and settlement of checks were adopted as a result of weekend settlement, both retailers and consumers could gain faster access to their funds. Additionally, retailers could gain accelerated availability of credit card receipts and potentially reduce the amount of cash held in their stores. However, the benefits would represent transfers of benefit primarily from consumers or depository institutions to retailers rather than new income, creating no stimulus to economic growth.” Retailers do a great deal of their work over the weekend when financial institutions are typically closed and therefore miss out on interest to be made off those deposits. The grocery industry does 53% of its business over the weekend, according to the GAO. Meanwhile, the financial services sector and companies that settle retail and wholesale payments would have the additional costs associated with opening on weekends for staffing and computers and cause greater computer system failures because weekends are used for testing and upgrades. Operating budgets would increase up to 40%. Additionally, the financial institutions would need weekend access to government securities and money markets to pay the retailers’ interest earnings.

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