Bank Execs Don't Fear Double Dip

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Despite stubborn storm clouds hovering over the U.S. economy, most bank directors are feel certain the economy won’t fall into a double-dip recession.

That’s good news for bank rate investors, but bad news for new homebuyers.

The data comes from a national survey by Grant Thornton on behalf of Bank Director magazine. The survey of 231 banking industry executives found that 49% don’t believe a double-dip recession (where a short period of growth is followed by a second recession) is heading our way. If we do see a double-dip, 33% of respondents would blame high government spending, and 35% would blame high unemployment.

Most, or 60%, of survey respondents say the economy will stay pretty much where it is right now, while 33% say the economy will grow worse over the next six months.

The numbers are a bit higher than a similar survey conducted by CNN released on Oct. 1. That survey of 31 leading American economists showed the chance of the U.S. falling back into recession was 25%, up from 15% in a similar CNN study six months ago.

But no matter how you measure the economy, and whether that means talking to bankers or economists, the trend of rising uncertainty among the nation’s financial class is disconcerting.

“This is consistent with what we are seeing with our other surveys,” said Nichole Jordan, chief of Grant Thornton’s Banking and Securities sector practice. “Bankers, just like other business leaders, are feeling the uncertainty in the market at the moment.”

The good news – if you can call it that – is that 23% of bankers say they will bump up hiring rates over the next six months. But that number could drop because of the foreclosure scandal, which some industry observers say may cost banks hundreds of billions of dollars when all is said and done.

The hedge fund Branch Hill Capital estimates that Bank of America (Stock Quote: BAC) alone is facing $70 billion in losses related to the foreclosure mess.

Despite 49% of bankers saying we’ll avoid a double-dip recession, you can still sense the anxiety in the air. If the foreclosure crisis grows worse, some of those bankers may well wish they could take a mulligan on the Bank Director survey.

Here’s a look at the Bank Director survey (straight from survey creator Grant Thornton):

Do you feel that the U.S. economy will improve / remain the same / get worse in the next six months?
Improve                       Remain the same                     Get worse
Dec. 2009               24%                             56%                                         20%
May 2010                45%                             44%                                         11%
Sept. 2010              15%                             60%                                         25%

Do you feel that your local economy will improve / remain the same / get worse in the next six months?
Improve                       Remain the same                      Get worse
Dec. 2009               22%                             59%                                         18%
May 2010                35%                             56%                                         9%
Sept. 2010              18%                             62%                                         20%

Do you expect the number of people you employ at your bank to increase / remain the same / decrease in the next six months?
Improve                       Remain the same                  Get worse
Dec.2009                18%                             63%                                     18%
May 2010                25%                             59%                                     16%
Sept.2010               23%                             60%                                     17%

Do you anticipate that the U.S. will experience a double-dip recession? (Respondents who replied “yes” were allowed to select more than one answer.)

I do not believe there will be a double-dip recession. 49%

Yes, high levels of government spending will be a cause of a double-dip recession. 35%

Yes, Europe's debt crisis will be a cause of a double-dip recession. 15%

Yes, high levels of unemployment will be a cause of a double-dip recession.35%

Yes, the Gulf oil spill will be a cause of a double-dip recession. 3%

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