Huntington CEO Sees Strong Growth, Inflation in U.S. Midwest

  • CEO Steinour said housing, auto markets showing strength
  • Bank M&A could resume as regulatory environment normalizes

Huntington CEO Steinour: Seeing Strong Growth in Midwest

Huntington Bancshares Inc. Chief Executive Officer Stephen D. Steinour said there are signs that employers are paying more to retain employees amid sustained housing growth and low unemployment in the U.S. Midwest.

“We’re seeing inflation now on the wage side,” Steinour, 57, said Thursday in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “That will only strengthen with these unemployment levels being so low.”

Rising rents in the U.S. helped propel a rise in the cost of living last month, while the jobless rate fell to an almost nine-year low, Labor Department reports showed. Federal Reserve officials, who voted this month to leave interest rates unchanged, said they expect inflation will move toward their goal in the medium-term.

Huntington, based in Columbus, Ohio with about $73 billion in assets, agreed in January to buy Akron-based FirstMerit Corp. for $3.4 billion. The deal, which is expected to be completed in the the third quarter, will add about $26 billion in assets and branches in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Pennsylvania.

U.S. regional bank chiefs have resumed takeovers to gain territory and strengthen market share. The dealmaking ends a slump in bank deals that followed the financial crisis of 2008, which prompted stricter regulatory reviews and pushed executives to avoid risks.

“That January announcement to third-quarter close, that’s a pretty tight time frame,” Steinour said. “So that’s starting to show the bank regulatory environment returning to the norm or having returned to the norm. That’s important.”

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