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WASHINGTON-Savings were up 1.5% in February, about half of all of last year, but this is not necessarily a sign of things to come. “At first blush, this could be good news, but don’t get too excited,” CUNA Chief Economist Bill Hampel warned. This is cyclical because those who expect the largest tax returns usually file as early as possible, which contributed to February’s strong performance; last year was exactly the same. Still, he said CUNA is forecasting savings to reach 6% growth by year-end. According to CUNA’s newest forecast, 2007 should catapult savings at credit unions to 9% growth as “households will have to increase their net worth not by capital gains on their assets but by savings flows.” Share drafts grew by 5.1% in February and were followed by a strong 1.7% performance in certificates and 1.1% in regular shares. Money market accounts and individual retirement accounts experienced growth of 0.4% and 0.2%, respectively. Loans increased a paltry 0.02% for the month. At 0.3% year-to-date growth, loans lag last year’s 0.6% growth at this time. While “other mortgages” rose 1.7% in February, unsecured personal loans, credit cards, new and used car loans, and adjustable mortgages were all down. However, CUNA economists still estimated that loan growth would end 2006 with a strong 8% rate of growth. And, due to the new bankruptcy law, lower bankruptcies and charge-offs are anticipated. “In 2007, slower loan growth, loan seasoning and a slower economy will increase both credit quality measures,” the forecast read. Delinquencies have held steady the last eight months at 0.7%, according to CUNA’s data. The difference between loan and share growth led to a decline in the loan-to-share ratio from 80.4% in February 2005 to 79.2% this year. CUNA predicted another dip in return on assets to 0.73% for 2006, but next year should see a rebound to the 0.80% range. The capital-to-asset ratios should remain stable over the next two years. Credit unions’ capital-to-asset ratio fell slightly from 11.2% in January to 11.1% in February. [email protected]

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