WASHINGTON - Loan demand remained strong across the country, led by industrial and commercial lending, the Federal Reserve Board said Wednesday.
The Dallas, Kansas City, and Philadelphia regions reported the strongest growth, the Fed said in the Beige Book, its periodic report on the country's economic condition.
Only the Cleveland, New York, and St. Louis districts didn't join the loan-growth spurt. Instead, they reported that loan demand moderated slightly.
The number of delinquent and past-due loans grew in November, although the Fed said the increases are not worrying bankers.
The economy expanded overall last month, according to the Fed, led by increased manufacturing and higher retail sales. The commercial real estate and construction markets were strong, although demand for new homes varied by region.
Finally, the Fed said nearly every region reported tight labor markets, although it said there was little evidence of rising prices.
Bank economists said the report supports their belief that the Federal Open Market Committee, the central bank's chief policy group, will cut rates when it meets Dec. 19.
"The economy is still growing but it seems to be at a slower pace," said James Annable, chief economist at First Chicago NBD Corp. "Inflation is lower than they thought it would be - it adds to one's confidence that they are going to ease credit conditions at the next meeting."
Ken Ackbarali, senior economist at First Interstate Bancorp, said he thinks the Fed would like to hold off on a rate cut until 1996.
"But they may be pushed into it in the next 13 days in the face of a number of economic indicators showing weakness," he declared. "This could be the last bit of evidence the Fed needs."
But Nicholas Perna, chief economist at Fleet Financial Group, said the Fed will not change rates because this economy is the soft landing the central bank wanted. "There is no sense of urgency in this report," he said.
Banking-related details by region include:
New York: Demand for loans "slightly" weaker across the board. Delinquencies up sharply for consumer loans, with 32% of banks reporting an increase compared with 5% in October. Spreads either held steady or fell.
Philadelphia: New-loan market "tight," with lenders accepting lower margins. Commercial, credit card, and real estate loans continued to climb.
Dallas: Bankers optimistic that loan growth will continue through 1996.