Bank deposits could get a modest lift as bruised investors exit the stock market, but any rise is likely to be short-lived, bankers said.
Yields on certificates of deposit are too low to be attractive to many investors, and a flood of money into CDs would only depress yields further, said Richard Hartnack, vice chairman of Unionbancal Corp., San Francisco.
People who flee stocks "have to park their money somewhere else, but ultimately that bids down the price of CDs," Mr. Hartnack said. One-year retail CDs - with balances of up to $100,000 - currently offer yields averaging 6.0%, according to Bauer Group Inc., Coral Gables, Fla.
Federally insured CDs have long been a destination of choice in investors' flight to quality. But in recent years, as mutual fund assets have soared, deposit growth has been meager.
The stock market correction, under way since late July, could show whether deposits can retain their role as a safe haven in an era when both consumers' investment options and banks' funding options have expanded dramatically.
Retail deposits - a category that includes CDs and savings accounts of up to $100,000 - held $1.859 trillion at the end of July, up 8.2% for the year, according to Federal Reserve data.
As the stock market gyrated in recent weeks, balances rose as high as $1.886 trillion on Aug. 5, only to fall back to $1.864 trillion on Aug. 19 - the latest period for which data are available.
Some banks are seizing on market turbulence as an opportunity to woo depositors. Emigrant Savings Bank, New York, is running print advertisements under the headline "Worried About Volatility in the Financial Markets?" The ad goes on to say, "Investing in an Emigrant High- Rate CD may be a wise move." The centerpiece of the campaign is an 18-month CD that yields 5.45%.
At Farmers and Merchants Bank, Milford, Neb., some money has flowed from mutual funds into CDs in the last few days, said Gerry Dunlap, president of the $163 million-asset bank.
Mr. Dunlap declined to say how much the latest inflows totaled. But over the last month, he said, deposits have increased $2 million. Some of that, he said, came because investors were skittish. "This is not a time normally when we see an increase in deposits."
Others say it is too soon to tell whether the market upheaval will translate into deposit growth.
At Fleet Financial Group, customers who want a place to park cash are generally choosing money market funds, a spokesman said; deposit growth is flat. But, he added, most customers are standing pat. They will probably wait till their August investment account statements arrive before deciding on their next move, he said.
Bauer Group president Paul Bauer, who publishes two newsletters that track CD yields, saw no stampede toward deposits in his weekly survey of jumbo CD buyers last Thursday and Friday. But this week he expects things will be different.
"Monday's drop is going to be a factor. We might see some people getting out of the market" and into CDs, Mr. Bauer said.
Niamh Ring and Cheryl Winokur contributed to this report.