Summer sales of certificates of deposit wound down as the torrent of money seen earlier this year slowed to a trickle.
Cash continues to flow into CDs, and total assets are at their highest levels since August 1992.
But according to the most recent data from the Federal Reserve, CDs of $100,000 or less have been growing at an anemic annualized rate of 1.69%, as of Aug. 28.
That's half the growth seen at the end of July, and only a glimmer of the sizzling 46.92% growth rate seen in January.
The obvious culprit of this slowdown in CD sales is lower interest rates, which have made all but the most aggressively priced certificates of deposit seem less attractive to consumers. One-year CDs across the country are yielding an average of 5.14%, compared with February's high of 5.83% - about what a five-year CD is yielding today.
But some bankers and analysts are also pointing fingers at the bullish equity markets, which have lured many consumers to invest in stocks and mutual funds.
"There are clearly customers who have taken money that would have gone into CDs but decided to stretch their risk a little and invest in mutual funds or directly in stocks," said Eugene S. Putnam, senior vice president of corporate finance for Crestar Financial Corp., Richmond, Va.
Crestar has seen a slight reduction in its certificates of deposit, with roughly $1 million dropping out of CDs in the past three months, Mr. Putnam said. Most of the bank's inflows have gone into demand deposit accounts, such as savings and money market accounts, he said.
"A lot of the CDs that were opened last year to take advantage of the high rates are maturing now, and people are not rolling them over," Mr. Putnam said.
Had Crestar not acquired several other banks this year, Mr. Putnam said, "the runoff would have been more significant."
Mark Twain Bancshares, St. Louis, has seen no drop in it certificates of deposit, mainly because of its aggressive pricing of shorter-term CDs, said Nancy E. Graves, senior vice president and director of retail banking. But growth has been modest since the summer, she added.
The bank's CD rates are "always at current market levels, and we're always at the top end of that range," Ms. Graves said. "We haven't had to pay a premium or advertise much, because people know that about us."
Though she wouldn't go into detail, Ms. Graves said Mark Twain had tremendous success with a CD sale in May. "It could have easily run nine weeks, but we stopped it at five weeks," because the marketing campaign had reached its quota early, she said.
Mark Twain uses its deposits as a cheap source of funding to meet loan demand, which Ms. Graves said has been high in the midwestern markets the company operates in.
The jury is still out on whether CD yields will rise or fall anymore, said Robert Heady, the publisher of Bank Rate Monitor, a newsletter in North Palm Beach, Fla.
"The outlook on savings rates is about as flat as a Nebraska prairie," Mr. Heady said. "Short-term CDs have fallen about a half-percent, and the longer-term even more."
"Only Fed economists and their hairdressers know for sure whether" the Federal Reserve will drop rates even lower, he added.
Ambiguous as the future may seem, Paul G. Hunter, an executive vice president at San Francisco-based Union Bank, said rates on certificates of deposit are probably "near the floor, regardless of what the Fed decides to do. I don't think that they will go dramatically lower."