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Banks increase loans, business owners now optimistic

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San Diego’s economy continues to show signs of strength, with positive economic indicators for three out of the first four months of 2015. The unemployment rate is at its lowest point since the start of the Great Recession.

Economic indicators

The USD Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate's Index of Leading Economic Indicators for San Diego County rose again in April. The index measures six factors related to the region's growth, including the labor market, building permits, stock prices and consumer confidence. All six of the economic factors were positive in April, the third time this year that has been the case.

Building permits led the move, followed by strong gains in help-wanted advertising and the outlook for the national economy. There were smaller increases in initial claims for unemployment insurance, consumer confidence and local stock prices.

Banks and lending

Loans at the state-chartered banks and credit unions headquartered in San Diego rose 7 percent between the fourth quarters of 2013 and 2014, but the growth rate was hampered by a lending decline at one of the county’s biggest institutions: California Bank & Trust.

Rancho Santa Fe Thrift & Loan, meanwhile, doubled its lending to $13.3 million; Silvergate Bank in La Jolla and San Diego Private Bank in Coronado grew loans by 40 percent and 45 percent, respectively; and Home Bank of California, Seacoast Commerce Bank, California Coast Credit Union, Point Loma Credit Union and San Diego County Credit Union all had lending growth from 23 to 24 percent.

BauerFinancial Inc. in Florida rated nearly all of San Diego’s banks and credit unions during the fourth quarter with four or five stars, listing them as either “superior” or “excellent.”

IPOs

Last year was the strongest period for biotech startups in San Diego County for nearly a decade, with seven initial public offerings raising $416 million on the stock market and venture capitalists spending $805 million to help more companies get off the ground. Venture capital spending in San Diego County rose 10 percent last year, from $730 million in 2013 to $805 million in 2014.

According to a MoneyTree Report, released by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, the first-quarter venture capital market shows that late-stage investment is surging, with a decrease in the number of deals but an increase in funding.

San Diego had $270.2 million of VC funds invested in local firms in 19 deals in the first quarter of 2015, up from $122 million in the same number of deals last quarter, and $243.1 million — but in 26 deals — from the first quarter of 2014.

Small-business optimism

Small-business owners throughout the West Coast are the most optimistic they have been in four years, with a record-breaking 90 percent believing their businesses are headed in the right direction, according to an annual survey of small businesses conducted by Union Bank.

The survey found that 49 percent of respondents in San Diego believed that local business conditions will improve over the next two years, up 3 points from the previous year.

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