Survey suggests virus outbreak to slow the economy


OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – Bankers in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states expect the economy to slow down over the next few months as the nation deals with the coronavirus outbreak, according to a new survey released Thursday.

The overall index for the region fell to 35.5 in March from February's healthy 51.6 reading. Any score below 50 suggests a shrinking economy, while a score above 50 suggests a growing economy, organizers say.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said 61 percent of the bankers surveyed expect the measures being taken to fight the coronavirus to lead to a recession. State officials are limiting the size of public gatherings to slow the spread of the disease, prompting some businesses to close, and many restaurants have been forced to close their dining rooms and only handle take-out or delivery orders.

The survey's confidence index, which measures how bankers feel about the economy over the next six months, fell to 28.3 in March from February's 58.1.

The borrowing index rose to 66.1 in March from February's 50 as more farmers took out loans.

The employment index slipped to 48.3 in March from 57.8 in February.

Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

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