Dec 20 - The Rural Mainstreet Index, climbed to a healthy 60.6, its highest level since June 2007, and was up from 57.5 in November. The index ranges between 0 and 100 with 50.0 representing growth neutral.
Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said very strong agriculture commodity prices and lower energy prices boosted the Rural Mainstreet business activity for the month. “This is the healthiest reading that we have recorded since well before the national economic recession began in 2007,” said Goss, the Jack A. MacAllister Chair in Regional Economics at Creighton.
Farming: The farmland-price index continues to show very brisk growth though the December reading dipped slightly to 82.5 from November’s 83.9. This is the 35th consecutive month that the farmland-price index has risen above growth neutral. “The Federal Reserve’s cheap money policy is pushing agriculture land prices higher.
This month bankers were asked how much cash rents for farmland changed over the past 12 months. On average, bankers reported a 15 percent increase in cash rents over the past year,” said Goss.
“As a result of higher corn prices and lower ethanol fuel prices, 23.2 percent of bankers expect shutdowns or temporary closure of ethanol plants in their area. On the other hand, only 3.6 percent of bankers expect an increase in 2013 ethanol revenues from 2012 for ethanol plants in their area,” said Goss.
The farm-equipment-sales index bounced to 67.0 from 60.4 in November. “With solid financial footing, farmers remain optimistic about future agriculture economic conditions and are expanding their purchases of farm equipment,” said Goss.
In order to reduce costs, the 2012 drought and higher corn prices have forced ranchers to cut the size of their animal stocks. On average, the drought forced a 14.8 percent reduction in livestock herds.
Banking: After moving below growth neutral for two straight months, the loan-volume index expanded to 62.1 from November’s weak 47.8 and October’s 44.2. The checking-deposit index advanced to 75.8 from November’s 75.1, while the index for certificates of deposit and other savings instruments declined to 40.2 from 45.5 in November. “Bank CEOs are reporting significant increases in borrowing to purchase farmland and farm equipment,” said Goss.
Like other bankers Larry Winum, president of Glenwood State Bank in Glenwood, Iowa, is very disappointed that Congress has failed to at least agree to vote on the TAG (transaction account guarantee) two-year extension bill (S.3637). Said Winum, “The Senate’s inability to vote on an extension of bank funded FDIC coverage for noninterest-bearing accounts only benefits the large banks and hurts the majority of community banks and their small business customers.”
Hiring: December’s hiring index expanded to 53.5 from 53.0 in November. “Despite recent gains in Rural Mainstreet jobs, the region’s employment level is down by 3 percent from pre-recession levels,” said Goss.
Confidence: The confidence index, which reflects expectations for the economy six months out, expanded to 55.5 from November’s much lower 45.6. “Improvements in retail sales, home purchases and lower energy prices boosted banker’s economic outlook,” said Goss.
Home and retail sales: The December home-sales index slipped to a still healthy 61.3 from November’s 62.0. The December retail-sales index soared to 59.0 from November’s 51.5.
Each month, community bank presidents and CEOs in nonurban, agriculturally and energy-dependent portions of a 10-state area are surveyed regarding current economic conditions in their communities and their projected economic outlooks six months down the road. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming are included.
This survey represents an early snapshot of the economy of rural, agriculturally and energy-dependent portions of the nation. The Rural Mainstreet Index is a unique index covering 10 regional states, focusing on approximately 200 rural communities with an average population of 1,300. It gives the most current real-time analysis of the rural economy. Goss and Bill McQuillan, CEO of CNB Community Bank of Greeley, Neb., created the monthly economic survey in 2005.
Colorado: For a third straight month, Colorado’s Rural Mainstreet Index moved above 50.0. The December RMI climbed to 55.9 from November’s 51.8. The farmland and ranchland-price index increased to 70.7 from November’s 63.1. Colorado’s hiring index for December was 44.9, up from 38.9 in November.
Illinois: For a third consecutive month, the RMI for Illinois moved above growth neutral. The December index dipped to 65.2 from November’s 65.9. Farmland prices bounced higher with a reading of 84.2, up from November’s 79.5. The state’s new-hiring index increased to 53.9 from a weak 49.8 for November.
Iowa: The December RMI for Iowa advanced to 63.6 from 61.3 in November. The farmland-price index expanded to 84.2 from November’s 80.1. Iowa’s new-hiring index for December increased to 53.9 from November’s 50.2.
Kansas: The Kansas RMI for December climbed to 67.7 from November’s 63.1. The farmland-price index rose to 82.6 from November’s 82.3. The state’s new-hiring index increased slightly to 52.8 from 51.7 in November. Dale Bradley, CEO of the Citizens State Bank in Miltonvale, said, “Weather and economy are the key component for our area farmers in 2013.
Minnesota: The December RMI for Minnesota rose to 69.6 from November’s 63.0. Minnesota’s farmland-price index bounced to 87.7 from 84.6 in November. Minnesota’s new-hiring index advanced to 56.2 from November’s 53.2. Pete Haddeland, CEO of First National Bank in Mahnomen, said, “Very mild winter here, but very little snow. We have seen little or no effects of pending fiscal cliff.
Missouri: The December RMI for Missouri climbed to 58.7 from 55.5 in November. The farmland-price index for December increased to 72.2 from November’s 56.7. Missouri’s new-hiring advanced to 45.9 from 34.6 in November.
Nebraska: For a third consecutive month, Nebraska’s rural was above growth neutral though the December RMI dipped to 57.4 from November’s 57.7. The farmland-price index slipped to 84.6 from November’s 86.2. Nebraska’s new-hiring index increased to 54.2 from November’s 51.3.
North Dakota: The North Dakota RMI for December advanced to a regional high 88.3, up from 86.7 in November. The farmland-price index declined to 84.5 from November’s 89.5. North Dakota’s new-hiring index decreased to 84.9 from November’s 88.3.
South Dakota: The December RMI for South Dakota increased to 61.3 from 57.7 in November. The farmland price index decreased to 81.6 from 85.6. South Dakota's new-hiring index for December expanded to 52.2 from 48.0 in November.
Wyoming: The December RMI for Wyoming declined to 59.1 from 60.6 in November. The December farmland and ranchland-price index expanded to 80.6 from November’s 79.2. Wyoming’s new-hiring index climbed above growth neutral with a December reading of 51.5, up from 49.6 in November.