Banks ease credit rules, demand grows as U.S. economy motors ahead -Fed survey

WASHINGTON, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Banks largely eased credit standards for businesses, commercial real estate investors and households in the third quarter of the year, as the U.S. economy weathered the latest wave of the coronavirus pandemic, a Federal Reserve survey reported on Monday.

The Fed's Senior Loan Officer Survey, offering evidence of continued momentum for the economy, said banks "generally reported having eased standards" for business loans by lowering rates, expanding credit lines or imposing less restrictive terms.

The banks "cited a more favorable or less uncertain economic outlook" as well as more competition among lenders and "an increased tolerance for risk" amid general improvement in markets and the economic outlook, the Fed reported. Demand for loans was also up, particularly among middle-sized and larger firms.

Looser standards and higher demand also were reported for commercial real estate lending.

Banks in general also eased standards for consumer credit card and auto loans, by lowering credit score requirements or increasing credit limits.

But while demand for credit cards increased, demand for auto loans declined, the Fed reported, a possible sign that price increases had begun to hit demand for autos, or that the surge of buying over the last year had peaked.

In special survey questions related to the pandemic, banks said demand for business and credit card loans remained below pre-pandemic levels, with stronger demand expected over the next six months.

Banks "cited customers facing more favorable income prospects, and higher expected consumer spending needs given prevailing interest rates and terms, as reasons for stronger expected demand," the Fed reported.

Reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Andrea Ricci

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Thomson Reuters

Covers the U.S. Federal Reserve, monetary policy and the economy, a graduate of the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University with previous experience as a foreign correspondent, economics reporter and on the local staff of the Washington Post.