Commercial lenders are generally positive about their market - but don't expect easy credit if you're a retailer.

Lenders tracked by Phoenix Management Services slightly upgraded their overall assessment of the economy to a B-minus from C-plus when they were surveyed last spring.

The survey also concluded that lenders will maintain loose loan terms for many borrowers.

But the retail market remains subject to a "continuing malaise" that started in the spring, said E. Talbot "Tal" Briddell, president of Phoenix Management, which offers turnaround assistance to companies with financial or management difficulties.

"I think that lenders are going to bide their time with retailers," Mr. Briddell said. "They are going to wait and see what the Federal Reserve does in November."

He predicted that credit will remain tight for retailers until after the holiday selling season.

Bruce Ling, head of loan syndications at Credit Suisse, said that amid this malaise, bankers continue to consider making loans to retailers, but only under special circumstances.

Mr. Ling referred to the $3.7 billion loan made to KMart Corp. in July and the $1.7 billion loan to Reebok that was recently syndicated among 44 banks.

If loans "are structured correctly and priced correctly, they have appeal," he said.

Joseph V. Rizzi, senior vice president and managing director of structured finance at ABN Amro North America, said the Kmart loan insulated lenders from many of the retailer's problems. "Retail is not all toxic waste," he said. "There are some jewels out there."

Mr. Rizzi pointed to two reasons for the slump. Firstly, "you have to look at the individual retailers and regions, because some areas have recovered less well than others," he said. "Secondly, the slump is also reflective of an overstoring problem. The number of retail stores being added is enormous. But when you look at the dollars, it has been declining."

Generally, lending terms are good for borrowers, he said. "It is very competitive with all of the mergers. There is a lot of chasing after profit, so (the structures) could go looser."

Mr. Ling agreed that loan structure is growing more favorable to the issuer. "Covenants, collateral requirements, and restrictions on cash flows all have been loosened, and fees are coming down," he said.

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