Friday, April 22, 2016

Rural Mainstreet Index in the nation's heartland shows decline for eighth straight month

The Rural Mainstreet Index in April remained below 50 for the eighth straight month, Steve Jordon reports for the Omaha World-Herald. "On a 100-point scale—with numbers above 50 showing growth and below 50 showing decline—the Rural Mainstreet Index was 38.0, down from 40.2 in March, Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said Thursday. The index is based on a recent survey of 178 bankers in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming."

Prices for farm and energy commodities "have increased recently but remain well below a year ago—16 percent lower for farm products and 8 percent for energy products—which means less overall income in the region," Jordon writes, "Average farmland prices declined for the 29th straight month, registering 26.7 on the survey scale. That’s a slight improvement from a month ago but still shows prices dropping.The bankers reported average cash rents of $211 per acre, down 7 percent from a year ago, although farmland rents vary widely across the states."

"Farm equipment manufacturers and dealers are suffering from 'frail' sales, Goss said, traced again to the lower prices for farm goods," Jordon write.s "Goss said rural employment in the states is in neutral, slightly below a year ago. That’s not as positive as the 1.7 percent gain in employment in the states’ urban areas. The bankers also expect continued economic decline, with a Confidence Index of 34.8 based on their view of local economies six months from now. A year ago, that index stood at 47.0. Home sales in rural areas remained strong, with an index of 58.9, about the same as a year ago."

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