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WASHINGTON – January through April of 2004 has been the strongest four months of lending since before the slowdown, CUNA Chief Economist Bill Hampel stated. “We had pretty decent growth in loans in April, 1.2%, and the good news is we had loan growth in the old fashioned credit union loan categories: new and used car loans and unsecured personal loans. It’s really good to see new car growth,” he said. “Credit unions have been saying, `when is car loan growth going to come back,’ and we’ve been saying `trust us, it will’ and it appears to be doing that. I think that will continue for the rest of the year as mortgage growth slows, these other traditional forms of loan growth at credit unions will pick up.” New car loans were up 1.0% and used auto loans were up 0.9%, while fixed-rate mortgages lagged at 0.6%, according to CUNA’s Monthly Credit Union Estimates for April. Adjustable-rate mortgages climbed 3.5%, followed by “other” loans at 3.2%. Some people are still trying to cash in last minute for decent home equity loan rates, which exhibited 2.1% growth. Second mortgages also rose 1.8%. Unsecured personal loans were up 0.5% and credit cards actually dropped 1.3% in April. Hampel continued, “The result of this is that through April is the strongest first four months of the year since 2000 before the slowdown. Savings growth was also strong in April, but the 30th of April was a Friday and if we hadn’t had that, savings growth would have been pretty modest. The result of it is the savings growth so far in `04 is also the weakest we have had since back in 2000.” Aggregate savings at credit unions was up 1.4%, CUNA’s data said. Year-to-date savings growth fell from 5.4% in April of last year to 4.6% in April 2004. Due to the payday the last day of the month, share drafts were up 6.3% for April. Regular shares grew 1.0% and Individual Retirement Accounts were slightly behind at 0.9%. Because savings still outpaced growth, credit unions’ loan-to-savings ratio fell to 69.8% from 69.9% in March. Credit unions’ capital ratio dropped from 10.7% in March to 10.5% the following month. “The other interesting thing I’m tracking here is that delinquency in April is the lowest it has been, basically, ever,” Hampel said. “It dipped down to about 0.7% in 2000 when loan growth was really strong and our sample said it was at 0.68%, which is about the lowest we’ve ever recorded, so that will be an interesting number to track for the next several months.” He explained that whenever there is a surge in loan growth, the delinquency ratio falls, but loan, growth, while strong, has not been “phenomenal” yet this year. Two things that have helped keep it down were the mortgage loan growth and credit unions’ conservative nature. “Mortgage loans are less delinquent than car loans and unsecured loans,” Hampel said. “People are more assiduous about paying their home loan than other loans. They’re more willing to be kicked out of their credit card than they are to be kicked out of their house.” Hampel also said that there is such an excess supply of liquidity now that credit unions can go years with loan growth exceeding savings and “still be in good shape.” [email protected]

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