Competition for commercial and industrial loans remains fierce throughout the country, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday.

Federal Reserve banks in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Richmond, Va., Dallas, and San Francisco said lenders were battling for business loans, according to the Beige Book, the Fed's periodic review of the economy.

Still, delinquency rates were virtually unchanged in most regions, the Fed said. However, Philadelphia and San Francisco reported some deterioration in credit quality, and New York posted overall improvement, it said.

Loan demand remained strong. The Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Atlanta regions reported greater demand for commercial loans, and Kansas City, Mo., said demand for consumer loans was up. Only New York and St. Louis said loan demand had fallen.

The survey was done last month by the 12 Federal Reserve banks. It will be used by the Federal Open Market Committee at its Dec. 16 meeting on interest rate policy. The Fed's policymaking group last raised rates in March, by 25 basis points, the first increase in two years.

Here's a summary of the survey's other findings:

New York - Demand for mortgages at small and midsize banks fell, but credit standards were unchanged. Interest rates on mortgages were down; rates on deposits rose.

Philadelphia - There was a significant uptick in lending to refurbish and modernize office and retail facilities. Consumer borrowing and delinquency rates inched up.

Chicago - Business lending rose but not as fast as expected. There was a miniboom in home mortgage refinancing as rates fell below 7.5%. Personal bankruptcy filings stabilized.

St. Louis - Credit quality remained high, and banks said they expect to report record earnings. But deposits were hard to attract.

Kansas City - Loan-to-deposit ratios rose as banks extended more credit but failed to attract more savings. Consumer, home-equity, and residential construction lending rose.

Dallas - Credit unions reported a slowdown in new-car loans but said credit quality remained high.

San Francisco - Excess credit card use led to consumer credit-quality problems. A shortage of qualified candidates for jobs forced banks to convert part-time posts to full-time.

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