WASHINGTON — Demand for loans by consumers and businesses grew in the first quarter, according to a Federal Reserve report released Wednesday.

Fed districts including Philadelphia, Richmond, Atlanta and Kansas City reported improvements in loan volume from the previous quarter, while others like Cleveland and Chicago showed modest growth in the quarterly economic survey, known as the Beige Book. 

Other districts, such as Dallas, also increased lending to consumers. The one exception was St. Louis, which was the only district to report a decrease in loan volume.

"On the whole, demand strengthened since the previous Beige Book," the central bank said.

Bankers in the Philadelphia District noted growing consumer confidence as well.

"Overall, most bankers remained optimistic for growth through the remainder of the year; however, markets were divided between those who believed the economy had turned a corner and others who continued to see a slow bleed of population and business in their local market," according to the Fed's survey.

Bankers in Kansas City reported stable or improving loan quality compared to a year earlier, and all bankers said they expected the outlook for loan quality to improve or remain the same over the next six months.

Likewise, in the New York district bankers reported a rise in loan demand from the commercial sector with little change in credit standards.

Community bankers in Atlanta also reported improved loan demand with "aggressive loan terms and pricing driven by competition from larger banks and other community banks," according to the Fed's survey.

In Cleveland, demand for business credit began to pick up after a sluggish start to the year.

"Requests were strongest for commercial real estate development, including multifamily housing, equipment financing, and mergers and acquisitions," according to the Fed's survey.

Bankers in San Francisco noted that credit standards had tightened and most small-business lending was reserved for better-quality borrowers. Conversely, credit standards in the Atlanta district loosened, while others like New York, Cleveland, Richmond, and Kansas City said standards remained unchanged.

In the Richmond district, bankers reported that "credit quality of applicants has improved recently, while credit standards were unchanged," according to the Fed's survey.

The majority of districts described mixed or declining residential mortgage borrowing; only Dallas and San Francisco reported slight growth.

"Loan demand increased overall" in the San Francisco district, according to the Fed's survey. "Consumers exhibited solid demand for home and auto loans."

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