Banks More Willing to Lend

The latest data from the Federal Reserve Survey of Senior Loan Officers show that banks continue to loosen their credit standards and narrow their interest rate spreads on commercial and industrial loans.

The chart shows the percentage of banks that say they are tightening minus the percentage that say they are easing credit standards. Thus the negative numbers we’ve seen lately indicate more easing than tightening. There is no way to gauge the magnitude of the tightening/easing actions, just the number making a change in a given direction.

“Spread” is bank jargon for the interest rate that the bank charges minus its own cost of funds. The chart shows that banks are competing for the credit-worthy borrowers.

The volume of bank lending to businesses is on the rise as well.

Bankers tell me that they would like to make more loans to the most credit-worthy customers. However, I think that despite the recent easing of credit terms, banks are still unwilling to make loans to marginal customers (whom they would have lent to five years ago). There seem to be few alternatives for businesses that are not bank-worthy, whereas a few years ago there were plenty of commercial finance companies willing to lend to less credit-worthy firms.

Maybe sometightening of commercial credit was needed, but my gut says banks have been forced to go overboard by overzealous regualtors.

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About Bill Conerly 34 Articles

Affiliation: Cascade Policy Institute

Dr. Bill Conerly is the consultant who connects the dots between the economy and business decisions. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Duke University and was formerly Senior Vice President at First Interstate Bank.

Dr. Conerly is author of Businomics: From the Headlines to Your Bottomline—How to Profit in Any Economic Cycle (, which provides business leaders with a framework for understanding current economic news. He is co-author of Thinking Economics, a multi-media high school economics curriculum used in 24 states.

Dr. Conerly has been interviewed on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer, CNN and local television and radio stations across the country. He has been quoted in ...More the Wall Street Journal, Fortune Magazine, and USA Today.

Dr. Conerly is chairman of the board of Cascade Policy Institute, a member of Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski’s Council of Economic Advisors, and a Senior Fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis.

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