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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new survey of bankers in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states inched upward in May from April's record low but still remained profoundly low as efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the rural economy.

The overall index for the region rose slightly to 12.5 from April's record low of 12.1. Any score below 50 suggests a shrinking economy, while a score above 50 suggests a growing economy, survey organizers said.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey, said nearly three of every four bankers surveyed reported restructuring farm loans to deal with weak farm income.

"As a result of the restructuring, bank CEOs expect farm loan defaults to expand by only 5.4 percent in the next 12 months," Goss said.

The survey's confidence index, which measures how bankers feel about the economy over the next six months, sank to 22.1 from April's 27.4 based on bankers' observations of weak agriculture commodity prices and layoffs.

The borrowing index slipped to 72.2 from April's 75.8.

Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

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