Third-quarter results, which banks will begin reporting Friday, will probably show commercial lending continued to drive growth in balance sheets but momentum slowed from prior periods, according to preliminary data.
If levels at Sept. 26, the most recent date available, held through the final four days of the month, commercial and industrial loans would have expanded at an annual rate of almost 10% in the third quarter, underpinning a 2.5% pace of increase in total loans. (The following graphic shows volume data for major balance sheet categories; interactive controls are described in the captions. Text continues below.)
That level of growth in C&I would be slower than in any of the five previous quarters, and would fit with expectations among some analysts and bankers who believe that partisan brinksmanship over the budget and other sources of economic uncertainty are creating a drag on activity.
“Overall loan demand has been tepid at best and in particular it has been tepid on the commercial and industrial side,” Timothy Sloan, Wells Fargo’s (WFC) chief financial officer, told investors in September, referring to the same weekly Federal Reserve data on which this article is based. “That just reflects the slower growth that we are seeing in the economy so far this quarter.”
Similarly, Bank of America (BAC) Chief Financial Officer Bruce Thompson said last month, “You can only do so much on the loan growth side in the environment that we are in.”
Analysts have also cited robust issuance in debt capital markets as a headwind for loan growth.
The Fed’s most recent Beige Book survey of regional economic conditions did find an uptick in credit demand, however, and its weekly report on commercial bank balance sheet volumes can deviate from industrywide figures that become available in the weeks after the quarter ends. (The weekly estimates are based on information provided by a sample of banks benchmarked to quarterly regulatory reports.)
For one thing, the data here is adjusted for seasonal factors — credit card borrowing typically ebbs in the first quarter after a lift from holiday spending, for instance.
Volumes are also periodically affected by inflows and outflows resulting from unique events, including increases of about $100 billion of assets and liabilities in February and March from thrift conversions. (The third quarter included the acquisition of $9 billion of credit card loans from nonbanks.)
Excluding revolving loans, single-family mortgages increased at an annual rate of 2.5% in the third quarter, according to the weekly data. Home loan volumes can be deceptive, however, reflecting idiosyncrasies in the timing of packaging mortgages into bonds.
Total assets increased at an annual rate of a little under 2% — slower than during the first half of the year — as growth in holdings of securities fell to a 5% pace and cash levels declined.
Deposits continued to grow at a healthy 7% rate, though that was slower than the breakneck pace experienced in the middle of last year.