There's a trend developing in rural America, and it's a positive one.

Creighton University's Rural Mainstreet Index is above the growth-neutral mark of 50.0 for the fourth consecutive month. That hasn't happened since July 2015.

May's reading of 56.3, up from 53.5 in April, is also the highest since July 2013.

"Surveys over the past several months indicate the Rural Mainstreet economy is trending upward with improving, and positive economic growth," said Ernie Goss, a professor at Creighton's Heider College of Business.

The community bankers in a 10-state region surveyed for the index were asked to project farm loan defaults over the next 12 months. On average, they expect a rise of 3 percent, compared with the 5 percent increase expected this time in 2017.

"Clearly even with 2018 net farm income rising little from 2017, bankers expect little increase in farm loan defaults," said Goss.

The home-sales index climbed from 57.1 in April to 62.1 in May.

Still, not everything is picture-perfect.

The farmland and ranchland-price index is now below growth-neutral for the 54th month in a row, falling to 42.2. And for the 57th consecutive month, the farm equipment-sales index is below growth-neutral, though May's 43.8 reading is a marked improvement from April's 37.8.

The confidence index, reflecting expectations for the economy six months out, was unchanged at 50.0, indicating little economic optimism among bankers.

"An unresolved North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and rising trade tensions with China continue to be a concern," said Goss.

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