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WASHINGTON – The volume of checks cleared through the Federal Reserve continues to decline. Less than one month after the Federal Reserve released its 90th Annual Report to Congress showing the number of checks processed by the agency declined for the fourth consecutive year in 2003, the Fed released its data for the first quarter 2004. The findings show the Fed’s check clearing volume fell 5.8% in the first quarter of this year. In the first quarter 2004, the Fed cleared 3.635 billion checks, down 5.8% from the 3.859 billion checks it cleared in the fourth quarter 2003. The Fed’s check volume for the first quarter 2004 is the lowest quarterly figure on record for the agency dating back to 1989. Before the first quarter 2004′s new record low, the lowest volume was reported in Q3 1995 – 3.764 million checks. Not surprisingly, the value of checks cleared by the Fed in the first quarter 2004 also declined – down 5.7% to $3,464.0 billion from $3,672.0 billion. The average daily volume (millions of items) dropped from 62 million to 59 million; and the average daily value (billions of dollars) declined from $59 billion to $56 billion. The average value per check was virtually flat – $952 in the fourth quarter 2003, to $953, first quarter 2004. The Federal Reserve currently has 45 check-clearing centers located at the head office of each Reserve Bank (except the Federal Reserve Bank of New York), 24 Reserve Bank branches, and at 10 regional check processing centers, operations center, and satellite offices. However, as part of an operating cost savings strategy, the Fed plans to close 13 offices where checks are processed by the end of the year. Of these 13 offices, the five regional sites dedicated exclusively to processing checks will close. -

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