WASHINGTON — Bank lending is growing mildly, buoyed by strong consumer spending and an improving real estate market, while lending related to other areas of the economy have stagnated or contracted, according to a report issued Wednesday by the Federal Reserve Board.
The agency's Beige Book said that from mid-August through early October, most regional banks reported modest to moderate growth overall, with particular bright spots in consumer spending and the housing market. That growth appears to be prevailing despite the negative effects of a strong dollar on exports, manufacturing, tourism and commodity markets, the Fed said.
"Consumer spending grew moderately in the latest reporting period," the report said. "Home prices and sales volume increased in almost all regions, and a number of Districts noted relative strength in the market for lower or moderately priced homes."
The report noted that demand for banking services had increased since the last report in early September. The New York Fed said that small and midsize banks are reporting increased demand for commercial mortgages and more competition among lenders for all types of loans except consumer loans, whereas the Philadelphia Fed saw stronger lending activity across the board.
The Chicago Fed said demand for commercial loans — particularly small-business loans — had increased, though credit conditions were largely unchanged. The Chicago Fed also said the availability of qualified commercial borrowers has increased competition and loosened lending standards.
The St. Louis Fed said loan demand was down from the previous reporting period but still up year over year, while the Kansas City Fed said that demand for commercial and residential real estate loans, consumer installment loans and industrial loans remains "steady."
The Dallas and Minneapolis Fed banks said that lending volumes were modestly improved with notable exceptions for commercial loans related to the energy sector. The Dallas Fed said auto manufacturers are reporting increased demand and tighter inventories, particularly for trucks and SUVs — a reflection of lower fuel prices.
The San Francisco Fed said that lending was strong but noted that banks are less willing to underwrite speculative real estate projects. The regional central bank also said that there were indications that banking services to the technology sector — such as initial public offerings — may have cooled since foreign markets became more volatile during the summer.
Banks reported markedly downward trends for commercial and industrial loans related to the energy production and manufacturing sectors. The Dallas, Atlanta, Minneapolis and Cleveland Fed banks all reported a contraction in energy production activities and a related lack of investment by energy firms. Some manufacturing sectors have also been hit by lower commodity prices, which has dried up demand for loans.