Post Election - The CU Outlook

No doubt the election has been highly contentious and with it now behind us we can begin to ask the questions, “what does it mean?”  I’ll narrow that question a bit further to “what is the financial impact on credit unions?”  This past weekend President Elect Biden pledge $2,000 stimulus checks will go out the door if Democrats win the two open seats in the Georgia senate race.  With the democratic sweep appearing likely, we can expect a steady flow of stimulus from Washington over the next year starting with the $2,000 checks and a continuation of the emergency Covid19 unemployment relief benefits beyond just April 2021.  This will be good for struggling families making ends meet, the economy and financial institutions.  We are unlikely to see the consumer default cliff or the collapse in multi-family CRE that some have suggested may occur as the economy struggles to gain traction in 2021.  Financial institutions will be able to manage through the somewhat higher defaults; however, as the federal deficit continues its steady march higher, we are likely to see lower activity in single family housing in 2021 vs. 2022.  Mortgage rates will increase from the low level we saw at the end of 2020 depressing new housing starts slightly but the real impact will be on motgage refinance.  2020 was a great year for refinance but I’d suggest baking in a 20-40% decline in mortgage refinance activity in 2021 vs. last year.  Where we settle in on that range depends on if the 10-year treasure averages a rate near 1.2% or 1.6% in 2021.  The bond bears woke this morning with the prospects that increase fiscal spending could push rates higher.  That said, its unlikely we see a 2.0% 10-year anytime in the near future as the Fed continues to manage rates with open market pruchases during an extended period of elevated unemployment.  Unemployment will remain elevated through 2022 - the strucural changes to the economy from Covid will take years to sort out.  The near to mid-term outlook for bank and credit union profitability doesn’t change.  Short term rates will remain near their low levels through 2022 putting significant pressure on spread income, loan growth will be muted, and the pressure from fin-techs will only intensify.  In my view, analytics and an aggressive digital strategy are paramount to the CU remaining viable and potentially growing in what looks like a slow-growth, highly competitive new normal.

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