Assets of large credit unions climbed 3.4% to $198 billion in the first quarter of 1994.

The growth came mostly from investments, not loans.

The loan-to-deposit ratio for the group dropped to 60.2% after climbing steadily to 61.6% by the end of 1993.

The findings, compiled by Callahan & Associates, a Washington consulting firm, are based on the quarterly reports submitted to the National Credit Union Administration by 1,139 institutions that have more than $50 million in assets. This group represents 64.7% of all federally insured credit union assets.

Loan portfolios grew 1.1% -nearly triple the year-earlier rate-to $105.8 billion.

Deposits grew 3.4% to $175.8 billion, the best first-quarter deposit growth in two years, according to the firm.

Tun Wai, chief economist for the National Association of Federal Credit Unions, attributed the growth to a healthier economy rather than people taking money out of mutual funds. "Members aren't putting money into credit unions because of rates; they're doing it because they have more money."

Loan-to-Deposit Ratio Down

The strong deposit growth in the first quarter pushed down the group's loan-to-deposit ratio.

But because loan rates at credit unions generally remain lower longer when interest rates rise, Mr. Wai said he expects loan demand to pick up next quarter.

Investment portfolios grew 6.1% to $83 billion, according to Callahan.

Net income fell 11% from the prior quarter to $602.1 million. The drop was caused by credit unions not boosting loan rates and higher-yielding loans being paid off, said Jay Johnson, a Callahan analyst.

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