WASHINGTON Feb 4 Banks eased U.S. lending
standards somewhat over the last three months and reported
stronger demand for business and auto loans and residential
mortgages, according to the Federal Reserve's latest quarterly
Senior Loan Officer survey released on Monday.
The January report, based on responses from 68 domestic
banks and 22 U.S. branches of foreign banks, also asked if
domestic banks had tightened lending standards to European
banks, but found that only a small fraction had done so.
Signs of improved access to lending and stronger demand for
debt would chime with more upbeat reports on consumer and
business spending, as well as better news on U.S. housing.
But U.S. officials have been frustrated by the difficulty
experienced by some households and businesses in obtaining
credit, despite ample bank liquidity and overnight interest
rates that the Fed has held near zero since late 2008.
"Modest fractions of domestic banks reported having eased
their standards across major loan categories over the past three
months on net," the Fed said. "Domestic respondents indicated
that demand for business loans, prime residential mortgages, and
auto loans had strengthened."
In addition to its regular assessment of lending conditions,
the Fed also asked survey participants three specific questions.
In addition to the query on lending standards to European
banks, it also quizzed the loan officers on their lending
policies on commercial real estate (CRE), and the outlook for
"Respondents indicated that they had eased selected CRE loan
terms over the past 12 months on net," the Fed said, adding that
"moderate to large fractions of banks expect improvements in
credit quality in most major loan categories."