CUNA estimates: CU loan growth picks up in March despite weaker economy

May 5, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (5/5/15)--Despite slowdowns in a number of economic indicators in the first quarter, credit union loan and membership growth posted solid gains in March, according to CUNA’s monthly estimates.

Loan growth rose by 0.6% in March and climbed 10.6% on a year-over-year basis. Fixed-rate first mortgages drove the increases with a 3.1% jump, followed by new-auto loans (1.1%) and used-auto loans (1%).

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Further, between March 2014 and 2015, fixed-rate first-mortgage lending and new-auto lending accelerated by 6.8% and 22.6% respectively.

“Recent economic data suggest slower U.S. economic expansion in the first quarter of this year,” said Perc Pineda, CUNA senior economist. “Credit unions, however, continue to experience increased activity.”

Memberships also continued to climb at a healthy pace in March, rising 0.5% for the month and 3.6% for the year ending March 2015. Credit union memberships now number 102.8 million, according to the estimates.

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Savings balances, meanwhile, rose 0.4% in March after a 0.2% gain in February, and asset quality improved during the month, with the 60-plus day delinquency rate at credit unions dropping to 0.7% from 0.8%.

The numbers illustrate that the slower economic activity in the first quarter is temporary, Pineda said, as lending and borrowing activities at credit unions remain on the upswing.

Further, the data underscores “the importance of low-cost financial intermediation--which credit unions provide--for sustained economic growth,” Pineda said. “More and more Americans are choosing credit unions as their best financial partner.”