Even before the Federal Reserve cut a key interest rate Wednesday from 2 percent to 1.5 percent, Maine’s financial institutions were liquid and ready to lend, area bank and credit union officials said.
But some of their would-be borrowers may not know that — and area bankers hope that the move by the Fed will assuage anxieties about the financial markets.
“We’re hoping that this will allay some concerns and anxiety that some customers have,” said Suzanne Brightbill of Camden National Bank. “They see the Fed’s willingness to reduce the rate as a sign that inflation isn’t rampant.”
In a jittery national economy that seems to be ricocheting from one financial catastrophe to another, signs and perceptions are very important, bankers say.
That’s true even in Maine, which was not as involved in the subprime mortgage morass as many other states and is in good shape in terms of available credit, according to Jon Paradise of the Maine Credit Union League.
“There is a perception — and how could you not have that perception with what’s going on now — that nobody’s lending money,” he said. “But there’s still plenty of money to lend.”
He said he hasn’t heard of many Maine businesses not being able to make payroll due to a lack of a line of credit, as is the case in other places around the country and globe.
Still, the Fed had to act, according to Paradise.
“The valve of credit has been shut off,” Paradise said. “The perception was, they had to do something. This was the immediate emergency step that they took.”
Yellow Light Breen of Bangor Savings Bank said the rate cut will have little actual impact on banking in Maine.
“What the Federal Reserve and all the other central banks around the world are trying to do is use every tool at their disposal to grease the skids, to try to shake loose the national and international credit markets, which have been frozen for the last month or so,” Breen said. “But for local banks, the impacts will mostly be limited.”
The key rate lowered Wednesday — the federal funds rate — is just one of many factors that local banks consider as they set their interest rates for loans and certificates of deposit.
Paradise said the rate cut may “emotionally” be what people need right now to encourage them to get back to business as usual.
“There’s just so much anxiety. You look at it night after night. You read about it in the morning. It’s hard to escape it,” the credit union official said. “But our message is, we’re stronger than ever.”