The percentage of bank account holders who expect year-2000 disruptions has dwindled in recent months, federal regulators said Thursday.

Only 17% of the 1,400 bank customers surveyed last month by the Gallup Organization said automated teller machines will probably fail Jan. 1, compared with 42% of those polled in March. The proportion who believe checks will probably bounce fell to 16%, from 38%.

Moreover, nine in 10 customers surveyed in October were "somewhat confident" or "very confident" their financial institution would survive the rollover date, up from 78% in March.

"The good news today is that there is no bad news," said Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Donna A. Tanoue at a press conference hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. The FDIC and the Fed split the cost of the October survey. Information on the price was not immediately available, but the March poll set regulators back $400,000.

The percentage of bank customers who told Gallup they "probably" or "definitely" would withdraw extra cash before the new year was 39%, down from 62% in March. Just over half of those who said they would take out extra cash plan to withdraw less than $500 more than usual, while 24% said they would take out at least $1,000 extra.

Gallup is under contract to monitor bank customers' cash plans through December and will warn regulators about any significant shifts.

Banks and their supervisors may deserve much of the credit for the turnaround in public confidence. According to Gallup, just 24% of the people polled in March said their bank had communicated with them about the year-2000 problem. By October that figure had risen to 70%.

Meanwhile, top federal regulators have been traveling the country to spread positive news.

At Thursday's press conference, Ms. Tanoue said that all but five of the approximately 10,300 FDIC-insured banks are currently rated "satisfactory" or better on their year-2000 preparations. -- Scott Barancik

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