WASHINGTON — More than half of the Federal Reserve's 12 regional banks said Wednesday that loan demand jumped "slightly" since the central bank's last economic survey taken in August.

"Overall loan demand was steady to stronger in most districts. Credit standards were little changed since the last report, and a number of districts noted improvements in loan quality or steady to declining delinquency rates," said the central bank's survey of economic conditions, known as the Beige Book.

Bankers in New York, for example, said they saw an uptick in loan demand with the exception of consumer loans, which were unchanged.

In the Philadelphia District, meanwhile, financial firms reported "continued growth" with loan volumes rising "modestly" in most categories. Lenders said their overall outlook remains "positive."

Demand for business credit moved "slightly higher" in the Cleveland District due largely for requests for commercial loans and refinancings. Still, small business owners said they are having a difficult time obtaining credit.

Kansas City and Dallas banks said there was little change in loan inquiries, while the Chicago district reported a lower turnout.

Dallas bankers said auto loan demand, especially for new vehicles, was a bright spot, but business lending and commercial real estate lending continued to be a drag. Contacts provided a mixed outlook, with some bankers saying "fiscal worries were negatively impacting loan demand."

In Chicago, bankers also said they saw "continued weak demand for business loans." Consumer loans were also limited with modest gains in auto lending and home refinancing.

Most other regional banks, however, said they saw an increase in mortgage lending, especially when it came to borrowers looking to refinance their homes.

In the Richmond district, one banker reported "continued strength in refinancing demand, which accounted for three out of four commercial loan applications."

Another North Carolina banker in that district said "while most home mortgages were for refinancing, applications were 50% above normal levels and over one third were for either purchasing or building a home."

Banking contacts in Atlanta saw a similar trend for home purchases and refinances, although some noted that fewer than half of the applications were being approved.

Five Fed districts, including New York, Cleveland and Kansas City, reported an increase in demand for commercial and industrial loans.

Bankers in Kansas City said they saw stronger loan demand, improved loan quality and increased deposits.

"Overall loan demand was favorable as most respondents reported stable demand for commercial real estate and consumer installment loans, while demand for residential real estate and commercial and industrial loans edged slightly higher," the report stated.

Credit standards across the districts were "little changed" since the August survey. However, New York noted some tightening for consumer loans and residential mortgages, while Richmond and Chicago reported some easing for commercial and industrial loans.

The New York district said "Roughly one in five bankers report tighter standards for consumer loans and residential mortgages, while no respondent reports easing standard in any individual loan category."

In the San Francisco District, bankers said loan demand remained the same. They also reported "stiff competition among lenders to provide credit to well-qualified business loan applicants."

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