Breaking a six-year trend, assets of the nation's largest 1,110 federally insured credit unions fell 0.7% in the third quarter of 1994, according to the National Credit Union Administration.

According to call reports collected from institutions with more than $50 million of assets, assets fell to $199.5 billion.

A healthy economy is the culprit behind the industry's first quarter-to-quarter asset drop since the third quarter of 1988, not rival depositories or mutual funds, said William F. Hampel, chief economist for the Credit Union National Association.

"Consumers are spending more and saving less," he said, adding: "The tide of disintermediation to mutual funds that we saw in 1993 is not happening as much in 1994."

Deposits shrank 1.1% to $176.2 billion from $178.3 during the three months, while loan portfolios grew 3.4% to $115 billion.

With only 4.3% deposit growth during the first nine months of the year and 11.4% loan growth, Mr. Hampel predicts that credit unions will experience liquidity pressures.

"Although most credit unions are far from loaned out, a lot of their investments aren't in overnights," he said.

"Credit unions are going to have to think more about liquidity management.

"Some will have to borrow in the next year to match their cash flows."

Although credit unions have been holding off on raising loan rates, they will jack them up in the coming months, he said.

The capital-to-assets ratio increased from to 9.8% to 9.5% in the three-month period.

The delinquency ratio remained unchanged at 0.7%.

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