Creighton University publishes a monthly rural main street index designed to give a reading on the overall health of the farm/rural economy. In their most recent release from September, after several years in positive territory (over 50 on a 1-100 index), the index finally fell into a negative reading at 49. Now, this is only 1 point under neutral, but it is a sign that the farm/rural economy continues to contract.
The index covers a 10-state region centered around Nebraska. Some of the individual indexes are as follows:
- The Farmland and Ranchland price index actually rose from 32.7 to 35.5. Although it rose, it has been 22 consecutive months under a reading of 50.
- Farm equipment-sales index remained at a very anemic 14.2. Even if Section 179 reverts back to $500,000 for this year, I don't envision this index perking up much by year-end.
- The loan-volume index dipped to 72 from 73 in August.
- The hiring index fell to 54.3 in September from 63.3 in August but is still much better than other indexes.
- The confidence index rose to 43.8 from 42.
- Home-sales index dropped from 70.4 to 56.4. This is a large drop but still positive, especially compared to several years ago.
Reporting negative information regarding the rural economy can sometimes be a sign of a bottom. If so, we will keep you posted.