Banks cranked out $151.5 billion of unsecured small-business loans during the 12 months ended in June, up 7.3% from the year-earlier period, according to a research firm's analysis of Federal Reserve call reports.
Warren G. Heller, research director at Veribanc Inc., said the increase indicated - contrary to some Fed studies - that banking consolidation did not mean small businesses would have trouble obtaining credit. He described the rise in loans as "routine" growth in business lending.
"Small-business lending in amounts of $1 million or less is a bellwether both of the health of an important job-creating sector of the economy and of the financial system's responsiveness to that sector's needs," Veribanc said in a press release.
Since June 1994, the first time this loan category was broken out from call reports, unsecured small-business loans have grown 17.7%, from a base of $138.1 billion, according to the Veribanc figures.
Small-business real estate loans also grew from 1995 to 1996, although more slowly. As of June 1996, banks had $168.3 billion of business real estate loans of less than $1 million. That's up 4.1% from the year-earlier period, Veribanc reported.
Mr. Heller said the sluggish growth in real estate lending was a hangover from the commercial real estate problems of the late 1980s and early 1990s.