WASHINGTON Changes in overall loan balances were muted in the last six weeks of 2013, with bankers in some regions reporting minor growth and those in other parts of the country seeing volume remain stagnant, the Federal Reserve Board said Wednesday.
The Fed's periodic report of economic activity known as the Beige Book said none of the central bank's districts that included the banking sector as part of their assessment "noted substantial changes in loan volume."
The Philadelphia, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas and San Francisco districts "reported slight-to-moderate growth," the report said. "The Cleveland, St. Louis, and Kansas City districts reported no change, whereas New York cited a moderate decline in loan volume."
Credit standards also showed only minor changes, the report said, but the districts of "Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco cited instances where financial institutions relaxed their underwriting standards.Some contacts attributed this relaxation to increased competition in lending markets."
While loans for new homes have "slightly increased" in certain districts, a drop in refinancings is slowing the overall pace for residential mortgages. Residential real estate loans declined in the New York, Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago and Kansas City regions.
Demand for commercial lending was all over the map. Commercial real estate loans decreased in the Philadelphia and St. Louis districts while rising in Cleveland and holding steady in New York and Kansas City. Industrial loans were higher in Richmond, Chicago and San Francisco but were unchanged in Cleveland and Kansas City. Business loans fell in the St. Louis region.
Bankers in some districts including Cleveland, Richmond, Chicago and Dallas noted increases in auto lending. The Cleveland district said "auto lending drew the highest demand" among loan categories during the reporting period. In the Richmond district, a South Carolina banker "noted that loans for luxury autos were robust as consumers took advantage of low interest rates."
Some of the Fed's 12 districts included accounts of bankers' concerns about upcoming regulatory changes, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's "qualified mortgage" rule, which took effect Jan. 10.
For example, "community bank contacts" in the Atlanta region "expressed continued concern about the implementation of qualified-mortgage requirements in 2014 and the possible negative effect on mortgage lending, particularly as some mortgage lenders exit the mortgage lending business altogether or change their business models because of the added risks," the report said.