WASHINGTON -- Continuing a recent trend, banks eased terms and standards on business and household loans during the last three months, and demand for business loans rose, a Federal Reserve survey of senior loan officers showed.
Demand for credit from households, however, was mixed, the survey said.
Banks reported "significant" declines in demand for mortgages, while demand for home equity lines of credit fell slightly. Demand for consumer installment debt, including credit cards, rose.
The central bank,s quarterly survey of bank loan officers also showed that more than a year after being implemented, the Clinton administration's program to stimulate lending has had little effect.
U.S. banks during the past year increased their net borrowing from foreign branches to take advantage of lower interest rates abroad, according to the Fed.
The survey was based on responses from loan officers at 58 domestic banks and 18 U.S. subsidiaries of foreign banks. Many banks reported they were able to avoid currency risk exposure in the international transactions by borrowing primarily in the Eurodollar market. The Fed's survey showed a continuation of the casing of terms and standards on loans to businesses and households that began late last year, although at a "somewhat diminished pace." The loan officers reported casing terms and standards on commercial and industrial loans to firms of all sizes, with more banks easing for middle-market firms rather than for larger and smaller firms.
As in the May and February surveys, the loan officers indicated a slight casing of standards for commercial real estate loans. They also reported an increased willingness to make loans to individuals and, on net, a slight casing in standards for home mortgage loans.
Less than 10% of the banks polled increased their lending in response to the administration's campaign to boost credit to small and midsize businesses.
The plan included regulatory changes that allowed the strongest banks and thrifts to make loans with minimal documentation, reductions in the appraisal burden on real estate loans, and changes in the rules for financing business loans where real estate taken as collateral is not the primary source of repayment.
Loan officers also were asked about the structure of their securities portfolios in light of a rule change by the Financial Accounting Standards Board earlier this year requiring more securities to be booked at current market values.
The officers reported that securities held in their trading accounts had the shortest maturities, averaging 2.5 years.
Securities in the available-for-sale category had an average maturity of just under three years, while those intended to be held to maturity had average maturities of about 3.5 years.