Credit Unions Perform Well in Q1: Callahan
With apologies to Charles Dickens, credit unions’ aggregate Q1 2015 financial performance was the best of times and the best of times, according to results reported during Callahan & Associates’ 1st Quarter TrendWatch presentation this week.
“By all measures this has been a tremendous start for 2015,” Callahan Executive Vice President Jay Johnson said during Wednesday’s webinar. “I think we are looking at a record year for the industry.”
Credit unions’ financial growth in some ways ran counter to U.S. economic performance, according to webinar participant Scott Gilbert, vice president and portfolio manager for Goldman Sachs Asset Management and adviser to Callahan’s Trust for Credit Unions investment program. While some aspects of the economy rose, an equal number remained stagnant, adding drag to the country’s overall economic progress, he explained.
“The basic essentials of the U.S. economy are doing well, but there’s a mixed bag of economic data creating some bumps along the way,” Gilbert said.
The first quarter ended with just 0.2% economic growth, a 200-basis-point downturn from the 2.2% growth registered in Q4 2014. However, the minimal growth during Q1 2015 compared favorably to the same period during the previous year, when the economy experienced a net downturn of 2.1% during Q1 2014.
As of March 31, payrolls had increased by 223,000, reversing a harsh decline during earlier winter months, Gilbert noted. The unemployment rate hit 5.4% in April, which compared favorably to a rate of 6.3% for the same period in 2014.
Consumer optimism has continually increased since July 2014 despite a slight recent downturn, according to a University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index, Gilbert noted. This is reflected in continued increases in the consumer spending index, which grew by 5.8% in April, the highest level since April 2008, he added.
“There were a number of stumbling blocks but second and third-quarter performance will more than make up for them, especially in retail sales,” Gilbert said. “U.S. consumer confidence will gain ground over the next couple of months and that will turn savers into spenders.”
Gilbert also predicted that the rise in Fed fund rates likely wouldn’t happen until September. He predicted a 25-basis-point increase then, followed by an additional 25-basis-point increase announced following every other meeting the Federal Open Markets Committee thereafter, until the rate reaches stability and can be supported by improvements in U.S. economic trends.
Conversely, during Q1 credit unions created a much more robust economic picture, paving the year-long progress, said Johnson and Callahan Chairman Chip Filson, who jointly moderated the webinar.
“There is momentum is behind the economy,” Johnson said. “When you look at credit union numbers you don’t see the same economic mixed bag.”
Among the period’s big winners was credit union loan activity, which showed an aggregate growth of 10.6% to $731.2 billion for the year ending on March 31, 2015. This compared favorably to the 8.8% growth for the same period ending on March 31 of the previous year, Johnson said.
Capital growth was also a standout during the period, growing 8% to $132.8 billion compared to just 4.2% during the same period in 2014. Assets for the period were $1.17 trillion, a 5.5% gain compared to the previous year’s 4% growth. Share growth totaled $998.2 billion, a 4.4% gain over the previous year’s 3.6% increases.
By comparison, investments dropped $382.4 billion for the period, a continued decline from the 2.9% loss the previous year. But the downturn reflected the redirection of invested funds to meet increasing loan demand, Johnson said, a more profitable and appropriate use of credit union assets.
As with recent quarters, loan growth continued to be credit unions’ primary success story, the webinar noted. Year-to-date total showed a record $89.5 billion in total originations, with the largest spikes coming from first mortgage loans (50.8%), other real estate-related loans (14.7%) and the overall consumer loan category (12%). Despite restrictions, even member business loans recorded $4.1 billion in originations, positive progress over the $4 billion for the same period a year earlier.
In addition, credit unions in 20 states reported loan growth exceeding 10%. Topping the list was Idaho, which logged a 22.7% loan growth with more than $5 billion in loans outstanding as of March15, 2015. At the bottom of the “Top 10” was Rhode Island, which posted almost $946 million in loans outstanding for a year-over-year 13.6% gain, Filson said.
“It’s happening all over the country,” Filson added. “I think credit unions are exceptionally well-positioned when the Fed finally starts to raise rates.”