to hoard cash has not declined, a survey shows.

Thirty-one million U.S. households, about one out of three, may be stockpiling cash toward yearend, according to surveys that Brittain Associates took in March and September.

Still, only 15% in the latest survey said they were worried about general "banking problems" stemming from year-2000 conversions, down from 23% in March.

Twenty-six percent of checking or savings account holders believe automated teller machines will experience some year-2000-related problems, according to the September survey. That is consistent with the number of households that plan to hold on to extra cash, said Bruce Brittain, president of the Atlanta research firm.

Most of those who mean to store up cash expect to stockpile enough to see them through several weeks -- not a "long weekend," the study found.

The findings, based on telephone interviews with 1,000 adults, suggest that banks need to communicate with customers better about Y2K.

Banks "can make people feel more comfortable by calling them or printing extra statements before the end of the year," Mr. Brittain said.

"Certainly banks don't want to see a run on money," he said.

Banks should shift their year-2000 focus from operational fixes to "telling people why their money is safe," Mr. Brittain said. He applauded Wachovia Corp., which has put advertisements on billboards in the Atlanta area, as one bank with an appropriately aggressive communications plan.

In another poll, 22% of call center representatives at five large banks were found to be suggesting to customers that they withdraw as much money from ATMs for the New Year's Day weekend as for a normal holiday weekend.

Eight percent said they were suggesting $200 to $300, and about 20% said they were not recommending an amount. Twenty percent said they could not answer the question.

"Some of the representatives are trying to give the impression to customers that there will be no cash problem," said Anthony Viggiano, a vice president O'Connor & Associates, the Pittsford, N.Y., firm that conducted the survey.

The Brittain study found that 30% of people with credit cards think there will be card problems, though "they didn't feel like they would be long-term," Mr. Brittain said. Cardholders were worried that Y2K problems would block transactions and result in inaccurate accounting of charges.

Last month's Brittain poll also found that 4% of the population was inclined to cash out of the stock market because of year-2000 worries. That was down from 11% in the March survey.

"We saw some nervousness about the overseas markets going down," Mr. Brittain said. "People with money in mutual funds and stocks tied to international markets are feeling a little on edge." ?

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