Trade Deals Push Confidence to Seven-Year High

The Creighton University Rural Mainstreet Index (RMI) declined in February, but remained above growth neutral. This the sixth straight month the reading has moved above growth neutral, according to the monthly survey of bank CEOs in rural areas of a 10-state region dependent on agriculture and/or energy.

The overall index for February declined to 51.6 from 55.9 in January.
The February farm equipment-sales index increased to 37.9 from January’s 35.0. A reading of 50 is designated a growth neutral. Readings above 50 indicate expansion.

The confidence index, which reflects bank CEO expectations for the economy six months out, increased to a healthy 58.1 from January’s 50.0. February’s reading is the highest recorded since June 2013.

“The signing of the Phase One trade agreement with China and the USMCA boosted economic confidence across the region with expectations of higher international agriculture sales,” said Ernie Goss, PhD, who is chair in regional Economics at Creighton University, which administers the survey. “The last time Creighton recorded economic confidence this high was when grain prices were double today’s values in 2013.”