WASHINGTON (9/8/10)—Despite ongoing tough economic conditions, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Chief Economist Bill Hampel has said that there is room for loan growth at credit unions if credit unions gain adequate market share. CUNA’s recently released monthly review of credit unions (News Now Sept. 3) found that credit union savings balances rose 0.8% in July, bringing the total amount of savings held in credit unions to $801.5 billion. Savings rates in general are being held down as credit union members and consumers use extra cash to pay down their existing debts, Hampel added. "Households seem to be directing much of their available cash balances to paying down loans rather than increasing savings," said Hampel. "This will make building loan portoflios particularly difficult without an increase in market share." CUNA’s monthly survey also found that credit union loan balances again were down in July, contributing to a total loan balance decline of 1% during 2010. The most notable declines in credit union loans, which have decreased by nearly $5 billion compared to 2009 numbers, have come in both fixed and adjustable mortgages for primary residences. Hampel said that the current period represents the slowest rate of loan growth charted since World War II, and predicted that 2010 could end with zero loan growth for credit unions.