Federally insured credit unions earned $3.5 billion in the first six months of the year, up 25% from the corresponding period of 1992, according to the National Credit Union Administration.

The 12,500 institutions weighed in with a 1.5% return on net income to average assets, compared with 1.4% at year-end 1992 and 1.3% at midyear 1992.

"Even with difficulties in certain sections of the country and certain sections of the economy, overall the numbers are excellent," said Robert Loftus, vice president of public and congressional affairs for the NCUA, the regulatory agency.

Credit unions improved profitability largely through lowering their dividend rates to 3.1% for the midyear, from 3.9% at year-end 1992.

As a result, capital grew for the seventh consecutive year. The net capital ratio, which is the total of regular reserves, other reserves and undivided earnings, moved up to 8.5%.

Loans increased 3.5% to $144.5 billion for the midyear, compared to 4.6% loan growth for all of 1992.

Charles W. Filson, president of the credit union consulting firm Callahan and Associates, expects the number to increase substantially by the end of the year.

Rise in Confidence Seen

"Now that the [Clinton administration's] economic program is behind us, confidence will pick up," he said.

"I think people were concerned over whether the taxes in the program were going to hurt them. Now they see it affected a narrow group."

First mortgage loans remained the largest loan category at 21.4% of the total.

The loan delinquency rate fell to 1.1% for the midyear, from 1.4% in June 1992.

Deposits increased 3.6% to $241.4 billion. The loan-to-share ratio remained constant from yearend 1992 at 60%.

And as loan growth kept pace with share growth, credit union investments slowed to a 5.1% increase to $112.9 billion, compared with a 19.3% increase in the first half of 1992. Assets grew 4.2% to $269.3 billion.

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