The February Rural Mainstreet Index remained weak with a reading below growth neutral for the 18th straight month. But at 45.8, it reached its highest level in more than a year. The index ranges between 0 and 100. A rating below 50 suggests economic retraction, while a rating above 50 represents expansion.

The index represents a 10-state region in the Midwest with strong economic ties to agriculture. Index organizer Ernie Goss says weak farm commodity prices continue to squeeze Rural Mainstreet economies. However, Goss says “the negatives are getting less negative.”

Only 14.9 percent of bankers reported that their local economy was expanding. Approximately 34 percent indicated their local economy was in a recession with the remaining 51.1 percent indicating little or no economic growth. The farmland and ranchland-price index for February dipped to 33.7 from January’s 33.8. This is the 39th straight month the index has languished below growth neutral. Bankers indicated that farmland prices in their area had declined by an average of 5.1 percent across the region over the past 12 months. Meanwhile, the February farm equipment-sales index increased to 20.5 from 16.7 in January.

Source;  NAFB News

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