District of Columbia bankers and Maryland savings and loan association executives got identical warnings yesterday: Interest rates will not come down quickly.
In Hot Springs, Va., economist Michael K. Evans told the D.C. Bankers Association's annual convention that rates will drop no more than a couple of percentage points by the end of next year.
And in Baltimore, Max Karl, president of Mortgage Guarantee Insurance Corp., told a similar gathering of Maryland S&L executives that "it would be fatal" to think lower rates will quickly solve that industry's problems. "We cannot take a chance they will come down," Karl added.
Even if rates do decline, they are unlikely to stay down and, in any case, mortgage rates will be the last to drop, speakers told the annual convention of the Maryland Savings and Loan League in Baltimore.
Evans told the District banking conclave that continued high budget deficits combined with low consumer and business saving will keep both long- and short-term interest rates near their current high levels for this year and next.
Evans, who traditionally is one of the most pessimistic economic forecasters, said that, despite the administration's rhetoric, federal spending has not declined during the current fiscal year and Congress will be less cooperative with spending cuts in coming years. "Where are the cuts? There haven't been any at all. It's a mirage," he said.
Evans, the head of Evans Econometrics, predicted that short-term rates will decline about one percentage point by the end of the year because of the increase in savings. The tax cut scheduled for July 1, 1983, also will help to bring short-term rates down another percentage point next year, he said.
If Evans is correct, the current 16 1/2 percent prime lending rate will not fall much below 13 percent by the end of 1983, which not only is exceptionally high by historical standards, but is well in excess of the current 6 percent rate of inflation.
Evans predicted that inflation will fall still further in the next year--from the current underlying rate of 6 percent to between 4 and 5 percent in 1983.
But interest rates will remain higher than inflation because growing budget deficits will continue to worry lenders who commit their funds for long periods of time and because individuals will continue to behave for a long time as if inflation were the primary threat, he said.
Savings and loan executives were advised to stop waiting for interest rates to come down and seek other solutions to their financial problems.
Most S&Ls in Maryland are chartered by the state. They stand to benefit from a recently enacted state law giving savings and loans virtually all the powers now enjoyed by commercial banks. Washington attorney Robert L. Freedman urged the S&Ls to get an edge on the competition by using the new powers to engage in activities such as stock brokerage and commercial loans.