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MADISON, Wis. — The fourth quarter will be the “real test” on whether there tends to be a slowdown in membership numbers at the end of the year.

Last year, fourth quarter data showed a loss of members, according to the just-released September issue of Credit Union Trends Report from CUNA Mutual Group. At 88.6 million, membership is up 1.6 million year-to-date and 1.4 million since September 2005. But there continues to be a slowdown in new member growth gained through indirect lending channels as new and used car sales soften, said CUNA Mutual Chief Economist Dave Colby. “Do current results reflect ‘dividends’ from past field of membership expansions, or is this a data anomaly,” Colby asked. “[Credit union] membership will be a significant focus in 2007 with issues ranging from ‘modest means’ to quality of mutually beneficial relationships.” Meanwhile, September proved to be the lightest month for credit union consolidation this year with a net loss of 15. At the end of September, the CU count was estimated at 8,777. Over the past 12 months, the industry has lost 349 CUs. The October decline is expected to be above trend due to the large State Farm Federal Credit Union merger that drew 136,000 members under one credit union, Colby said. In other areas, deposit flows helped credit unions add $4.8 billion to surplus funds in September, according to the report. At $190.4 billion, surplus funds, which are cash plus investments, were down $9.6 billion (4.8%) year-to-date and are off $16.6 billion (8.0%) since September 2005.

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