WASHINGTON — Consumer loan demand continued to rise in recent weeks as bankers noted increases in car and new home purchases, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Federal Reserve Board.

"Overall bank lending increased since the previous report," according to the Fed's quarterly economic survey known as the Beige Book. "Credit quality and deposits increased, while credit standards were largely unchanged."

Still, the positive news appeared somewhat regional as certain areas, such as New York, Philadelphia and Cleveland reported increases in lending, while others like Richmond and St. Louis saw mixed results.

The New York district noted improvements in credit conditions across the board as bankers reported increased loan demand, spreads of loan rates narrowing and declining delinquency rates.

"Small- to medium-sized banks report an increase in demand for all types of loans except for commercial and industrial loans, where demand was unchanged," according to the Fed's report.

In the Philadelphia district, bankers said they found stronger demand for commercial and industrial loans and real estate loans, both commercial and residential, with even hiring picking up at some banks.

"A nascent housing recovery in many Third District markets has increased demand for new mortgages and the ratio of purchases to refinancings," the Fed said.

In the Cleveland district, demand for business credit rose more slowly as compared to a bigger pick-up for consumers applying for auto loans.

"Consumer credit demand rose slightly, especially for auto loans," according to the Fed's survey, which also noted that residential mortgage activity remained stable with a shift toward new home purchases growing.

Bankers in the Kansas City district also reported slightly higher loan demand, improving loan quality, and steady deposit levels.

"Respondents, on average, reported stable demand for residential real estate loans, commercial real estate loans, and consumer installment loans, while demand for commercial and industrial loans increased modestly," according to the Fed's survey.

In San Francisco, bankers said loan demand "improved slightly on balance" with mortgage and automobile loans as the primary drivers.

But in the Richmond district, banking conditions were "mixed" with demand for residential mortgages increasing, while commercial lending was "varied."

"Refinancing was strong in North Carolina, whereas lending in Virginia went primarily to new home purchases," according to the Fed's survey. "Across the district, the limited increase in commercial mortgage activity was generally confined to refinancing existing loans from other institutions."

Bankers in the Atlanta district also said demand for new loans remained lackluster.

"Overall demand for new loans remained weak as banks faced significant pressure to improve net interest margins and increased competition from non-bank providers of capital, such as private equity groups," according to the Fed's survey.

For other districts, like St. Louis, lending activity stayed the same in the first quarter.

"During this period, credit standards for commercial and industrial loans ranged from unchanged to eased somewhat, and the demand for such loans ranged from moderately stronger to moderately weaker," according to the Fed's survey.

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