S&Ls delighted with new money account
Washington — Federal officials have just put the finishing touches on an attractive new savings account designed to help local thrift institutions lure savers away from money market funds.
The new account, which will be offered Dec. 14, does not carry any interest ceiling and is expected to trigger a hot competitive battle for savers' dollars. Federal officials hope that any money that flows back into local thrift institutions as a result of the new account will be put into home mortgages.
Money market deposit accounts will make banks and savings-and-loans ''very competitive with money market funds,'' Treasury Secretary Donald T. Regan says.
While savings banks now join money market funds in being able to offer market rates of interest, the new savings account carries government insurance. Money funds do not. And regulations allow the thrifts to guarantee a certain rate of interest for up to a month, while most money market fund rates fluctuate daily.
The Garn-St Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982 called on regulators to set up an account ''directly equivalent to and competitive with money market mutual funds.'' The higher interest rates offered by money funds are one reason that $20 billion in deposits flowed out of savings-and loan-institutions during the first eight months of this year.
Under rules set Nov. 15 by the Depository Institutions Deregulation Committee , the new account will:
* Require a minimum initial deposit and balance of $2,500.
* Offer an interest rate guaranteed for up to one month.
* Allow up to six transfers per month, with no more than three by check.
* Permit unlimited withdrawals.
Savings-and-loan officials reacted with glee to the details of the new account. ''It is going to be a fantastic account and soon will become the dominant account in the financial business,'' Roy Green, president of the United States League of Savings Institutions, told a press conference in New Orleans.
Secretary Regan commented, ''To the extent that funds are withdrawn from money market funds and put into thrifts, most will find its way into the housing market,'' increasing the supply of mortgage money.
Mr. Green cautions thrifts do not want to get caught again with short-term deposits and long-term loans. ''It is not in the cards to use this new money for traditional (fixed rate) 30-year mortages. It is hot money of very short maturity.''
Money market funds will still have one key advantage - a lower initial deposit requirement. About 59 percent of all money funds require initial deposits of $1,000 or less, as against the new savings account's $2,500 minimum.
Some members of the deregulation committee were concerned that without a minimum deposit requirement, savers would move funds from low-interest-rate passbook accounts to the new high-rate instrument. This would have a large impact on the earnings of financial institutions.