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Rural Snapshot Reveals Mild Growth, Some Sectors Slowing

posted on March 21, 2014

Wall Street traded in record territory late this week, capping a tumultuous 5-day stretch.

The S&P 500 rose 30 points in five trading sessions including multiple days when it touched all-time highs.  The Dow and NASDAQ followed suit, and all three indices approached weekly gains of nearly 2 percent. But prices were volatile as geopolitical uncertainty in Ukraine was countered by an upbeat report on the U.S. labor market. 

The four-week average of applications for unemployment benefits fell to its lowest level since November.  That supported prices in the wake of Federal Reserve Chief Janet Yellen’s suggestion days earlier that interest rates could rise sooner than expected.

While it’s common for rural Americans to watch economic recoveries from the sidelines, things have been different this time.  At one time or another in the past few years, commodity prices, land prices and net farm income ALL soared to record highs.  And even though things have cooled a bit in recent months, a study from Nebraska this week revealed the ­rural economy IS growing, albeit modestly.

Rural Snapshot Reveals Mild Growth, Some Sectors Slowing

Creighton University’s Rural Mainstreet Index improved by nearly 2 points last month to 50.1.

But the survey of bank CEOs in 10 Midwestern states reveals some sectors of the rural economy are on the decline.

For the fourth consecutive month, farmland and ranchland prices declined, this time to their lowest level since March 2009. The study also revealed farm equipment sales fell for the ninth straight month.

According to Creighton economists, recent rises in commodity prices have yet to boost the rural economy and until higher prices return, the healthy growth recorded in 2012 and 2013 will be distant memories.

On the other hand, one sector is experiencing record prices, the livestock industry and that’s helping to offset reductions in crop farming income.

Tags: commodity prices Creighton economy Ernie Goss farmland value jobs middle class


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