Economy Survey: Midwest, Plains Bankers Perking Up

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A November survey of rural bankers in the Plains and Midwest suggests growing economic optimism, in part because of healthy farm income.

In a report released Friday, the Rural Mainstreet Index rose to 53.3 this month, compared with 48.4 in October and 47.6 in September.

The November figure was the highest since May and well above the 38.4 of November 2009 and 22.1 of November 2008.

The region's economic confidence index, which reflects expectations for the economy over the next six months, rose to 63.8 in November from 57.3 in October.

"The Rural Mainstreet economy is behaving like the nation('s), with a lot of zigzags in growth," said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey.

"However, I expect very healthy farm income to begin to have positive but somewhat muted impacts on businesses on Rural Mainstreet. Businesses heavily dependent on the farm economy continue to do quite well though," Goss said.

Farm indicators remain strong, including farmland prices and the sale of agricultural equipment, he said.

The survey's index for farmland prices soared in November, to 68.1 from 60.0 in October. The November figure was the highest since May 2008.

The farm equipment sales index also rose to 68.1 in November, compared with 61.0 in October.

Scott Tewksbury, CEO of Heartland State Bank in Edgeley, N.D. said, one of his area's farm equipment dealers said he had record sales in October. Tewksbury also said operating loans were being repaid faster than normal because farmers were profiting from high commodity prices and decent yields.

Goss and Bill McQuillan, CEO of CNB Community Bank of Greeley, Neb., created the monthly economic survey in 2005. The survey index focuses on about 200 rural communities with an average population of 1,300.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.


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