WASHINGTON - Uncertainty over the nation's economic future has led some banks to clamp down on business borrowers, according to a quarterly survey released Monday by the Federal Reserve Board.
Demand for business loans was basically unchanged from the previous senior loan officer survey, the Fed said. But about 8% of the 55 large domestic banks and 21 foreign banks polled said they had tightened credit standards on large and midsize companies.
Even some of those who are not tightening standards are increasing costs. About 30% of the respondents reported increasing loan rates, risk premiums, and cost of credit lines; this continues a pattern that was first identified in May.
As in August - when the survey was last conducted - the most common reason given for the tighter standards was an uncertain economic outlook, followed by problems encountered in specific industries and a reduced tolerance for risk.
Credit standards for small-business loans remained largely unchanged, though a "significant" number of banks reported charging higher premiums on riskier loans to small businesses, the Fed added.
In consumer lending, few banks reported changing their standards on credit cards or consumer loans, the Fed said, but several banks did report raising rates on outstanding credit card balances. Demand for consumer loans declined slightly during the three-month period.
And 41% of loan officers reported weaker demand for home mortgages; it was the highest percentage reporting a weakening since mid-1995. Respondents blamed the tumble on a recent decline in refinancing.
With the year-2000 turnover fast approaching, only 10 of the 76 bankers surveyed said they have received requests for contingency lines of credits. Only six said they were not willing to offer such credit lines to current customers.
The lenders said they are paying special attention to year-2000 readiness when considering new business clients, but only 22% said year-2000 was affecting the standards or terms applied to customers who are renewing credit lines past Jan. 1.