CHICAGO — The recession has bottomed out, but don't expect consumer spending to return to 2006 levels again for a long, long time, CUNA's Bill Hampel told the general session crowd at the AICPA National Conference on Credit Unions.Because the economy is so fragile, the U.S. could experience a double-dip recession as some have predicted, but Hampel said he doesn't think it will happen. Home prices have returned to a gain pattern that matches the average rate of inflation, suggesting a return to stability in the real estate market.The real economy didn't experience the nosedive some financial sectors did in four-quarter 2008 and first-quarter 2009, he said. In fact, although the economy has hit its lowest point since the 1930s, Hampel said it "isn't anywhere near as bad" as it was during the Great Depression."I think the Great Recession has been averted," he said. "It's not turning out to be as bad as I, and others, thought it would be."In sharing his credit union key measures forecasting for 2009 and 2010 year end, Hampel described his methodology as "visceral" and "from the gut" because current off-the-chart loss statistics make using historical measures useless in predicting the future.Regardless, Hampel shared his forecasts through Dec. 31, 2010. Loan growth will close 2009 with an annualized average of 4%, and will climb to 7% by year-end 2010. Deposits should post a 12% annualized growth rate by Dec. 31 but will slow to 8% by the end of 2010, he said.Delinquencies will end the year at 1.7% but will also decline to 1.5% in 2010. Net charge-offs should average 1.2% for 2009 but only 1.0% for 2010.In discussing ROA numbers, Hampel sounded like State Employees' Credit Union President/CEO Jim Blaine, who has been dropping jaws at his own conference speeches this fall by declaring ROA goals to be against credit union core values.He criticized the 1% plus ROA hauls in previous year."I don't know why ROA is important to credit unions anyway," he said.Hampel criticized the practice of assigning credit unions a "negative hit" when they report an ROA figure that's fallen from the previous year. In some cases, the credit unions weren't less successful, they were merely returning profits to members per credit union core values.The economist predicted credit union ROA would end 2009 at 0.15% but improve to 0.50% by Dec. 31, 2010, despite a continued squeeze on margins and loan losses.–[email protected]

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