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Creighton University news reports:

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Omaha, NE - The Creighton University Rural Mainstreet Index (RMI) for January climbed to its highest level since June 2018. January's reading marked the fifth 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.

Overall: While the overall index for January rose to 55.9 from 50.2 in December. It was the 11th time in the past 12 months that the index has risen above growth neutral 50.0.

"Only 17.7% of bank CEOs reported that their local economy was in an economic downturn. This is an improvement from one year ago when 22.9% indicated that their local economy was in a recession, or economic downturn," said Ernie Goss, PhD, Jack A. MacAllister Chair in Regional Economics at Creighton University's Heider College of Business.

Don Reynolds, chairman of Regional Missouri Bank in Marceline, Missouri, said, "Farm income for 2019 and projections for 2020 are not as bleak as expected."

Farming and ranching: After moving above growth neutral last month, the farmland and ranchland-price index fell to 45.6 from December's much stronger reading of 52.8. This is the 73rd time in the past 74 months that the index has fallen below growth neutral.

While farm land prices have weakened for several years, property taxes on that land have tended to rise. "Two of three Nebraska bankers reported property taxes as a significant factor reducing farm profitability, while only one of ten non-Nebraska bankers indicated that property taxes were a significant factor reducing farm profitability," reported Goss.

The January farm equipment-sales index increased to a weak 35.0 from December's 27.9. This marks the 76th month that the reading has remained below growth neutral 50.0.

This month, bankers were asked to project farm equipment sales for 2020. On average, bank CEOs expect sales to decline by 4.2% this year.

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