WASHINGTON — Hedge funds, private-equity firms, insurance companies and other big investors got better terms from lenders during the summer months, a Federal Reserve survey showed Thursday.

The Fed's Senior Credit Officer Opinion survey, a new quarterly report that focuses on wholesale credit markets, also noted an increase in demand for funding for most types of securities.

Modeled on the better-known Senior Loan Officer Survey, which tracks traditional bank lending to households and companies, the central bank's credit survey takes a look at the so-called "shadow" banking system.

The shadow-banking system plays an important role in getting credit to firms and individuals, as highlighted by the financial crisis, which saw a significant amount of lending move outside the traditional banking sector.

"Dealers indicated that they had loosened credit terms offered to each of the distinct classes of counterparties--including hedge funds and other private pools of capital, insurance companies and other institutional investors, and nonfinancial firms," the Fed report said.

By contrast, there was little change in credit terms and conditions in over-the-counter derivatives markets during the period.

The central bank's survey was conducted from Aug. 16 to Sept. 3 and polled 20 of the largest financial institutions in the country. The main questions involved changes between June, when the first such survey was conducted, and August.

Special questions in the survey about funding conditions in commercial mortgage-backed securities and commercial real estate markets since the start of 2010 indicated an easing of conditions and renewed interest in these markets.

In a subset of the survey that included only the largest firms, a majority reported a decline in client risk appetite since the start of 2010 and over the past three months.

The Fed's other traditional lending survey, released in August, showed that big U.S. banks eased standards on small-business lending in the second quarter for the first time since late 2006. However, customers of all sizes continued to show little appetite for loans as households and firms worry about the slowing economy and possible tax increases.

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