Bankers tepid on terms of nation’s economic recovery

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First it’s up, then it’s down — confidence in the economy, that is.

After the economy made several forays into positive territory with consecutive quarters of higher-than-expected gross domestic product growth, consumer and banker confidence rose.

These days, however, bankers don’t remain long in optimistic territory without a compelling reason.

In the central region, which includes Colorado, Arizona, Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming and other states, only 13 percent of bank executives believe the United States economy will improve in the next six months, according to Grant Thornton’s 17th Bank Executive Survey, conducted with Bank Director magazine.

Nearly one-quarter of them believe the national economy will worsen in that time frame. By way of comparison, more than one-third of bankers, earlier this year, thought the economy would improve.

Central-region bankers held out more hope for their local economies, with 24 percent expecting improvements over the next six months.

Only 20 percent of regional bank executives, however, expect to increase hiring between now and spring, compared to 23 percent of bankers, nationally.

Regional bankers also have not ruled out the possibility of a double-dip recession. Of those who think there will be a double dip, 40 percent say the primary cause will be high levels of unemployment, while another 40 percent say high levels of government spending will be the catalyst.

The foreclosure crisis

Several large national banks halted foreclosure sales this month after allegations that mortgage servicers signed thousands of foreclosure documents and affidavits without due diligence.

By and large, smaller and local banks weren’t affected by this situation. Some make primarily commercial loans. Others that do high volumes of residential loans usually don’t sell their mortgages to other lenders or investors.

For instance, at FirstBank of Colorado Springs and FirstBank of El Paso County, the banks use their own money for more than 80 percent of their mortgage loans, said Brian Larson, president of both banks.

“We actually service those loans ourselves,” Larson said. “Fortunately, we’ve had very few foreclosures. For us, it’s (issues with mortgage-servicers) not a problem.”

Attorney General John Suthers is serving on the executive committee of a 49-state coalition that is looking into allegations against national banks’ mortgage servicers.

Colorado is one of the states that doesn’t require a judicial foreclosure process. Instead, foreclosures are certified by a magistrate, in what’s known as a Rule 120 proceeding.

Help from Wells Fargo

Eighteen nonprofits in the Pikes Peak region received grants recently from the Wells Fargo Community Assistance Fund.

The grants, totaling $21,000, went to 501(c)(3) organizations with annual budgets of less than $350,000. In the state, grants totaled $246,000.

“An important element in keeping our community strong is the hard work and dedication of the many small, grassroots organizations based here,” said Steve Helbing, Southern Colorado market president for Wells Fargo.

There are nearly 2,000 nonprofits in the Pikes Peak region. The following organizations received grants:

  • Assistance League, Operation School Bell
  • Assistance League of Colorado Springs
  • Centro de la Familia
  • Colorado Springs Teen Court
  • Court Care of the Pikes Peak Region
  • Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance of Colorado Springs
  • El Paso County Search & Rescue
  • FutureSelf
  • Help the Needy
  • Interfaith Hospitality Network
  • Kidpower of Colorado Springs
  • LULAC National Education Service Center Inc.
  • Peak Education
  • Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center
  • The Club of Arts
  • Tri-Lakes Cares
  • Women of Courage Inc.
  • Women’s Resource Agency Inc.
  • U.S. Bancorp earnings

For the third quarter, U.S. Bancorp reported net income of $908 million, or 45 cents per diluted common share. Earnings for the third quarter were driven by total net revenue of $4.6 billion.

Third-quarter highlights:

New lending activity of $54.8 billion, and $16.6 billion in mortgage production, causing a 12.3-percent increase in mortgage banking revenue.

In Colorado Springs, U.S. Bank has 16 stand-alone and in-store branches.

Rebecca Tonn can be reached at rebecca.tonn@csbj.com or 719-329-5229. Friend her on Facebook.