Banks Easing Credit Standards and Terms for C&I Lending

Around 20 percent have eased credit standards, and nearly half of large banks have eased loan covenants.

The Federal Reserve Board’s most recent Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey on Bank Lending Practices found that around 20 percent of banks have eased credit requirements for business loans in the past quarter. In the survey of 68 domestic banks, none reported tightening credit standards for approving commercial and industrial (C&I) loans or credit lines—other than those used to finance mergers and acquisitions—while 19.1 percent reported that these credit standards are “easing somewhat” for large and midmarket businesses and 23.1 percent reported easing standards somewhat for small companies (those with annual revenues under $50 million).

When working with large and midsize businesses, 21.6 percent of large banks and 9.7 percent of small banks have eased restrictions on the maximum size of credit lines they do approve. More than 20 percent have reduced the premiums they charge on riskier loans. One-third of banks have reduced the cost of credit lines somewhat, and nearly two-thirds have narrowed the spread of their loan rates over their cost of funds. Nearly half of large banks have eased loan covenants, while only 12.9 percent of smaller banks have done so.

The easing is less pronounced when banks are working with smaller companies: Only 9.4 percent of banks have eased restrictions on the size of credit lines to businesses under $50 million, although 28.1 percent of all banks—and 32.3 percent of small banks—have reduced the costs of credit lines for these companies. Few banks have eased collateralization requirements (only 4.4 percent for large companies and 4.7 percent for small companies).

Among respondents that have eased either credit standards or terms on their C&I loans, the vast majority cited more aggressive competition as a reason, while 40 percent cited a more favorable or less uncertain economic outlook.

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