WASHINGTON — The number of loans that banks made to businesses in the third quarter rose modestly in certain pockets of the country, according to a Federal Reserve report released Wednesday.

Across the 12 Federal Reserve districts, nearly half saw some signs of improvement. Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco districts reported a "modest increase," while districts in Boston and Atlanta saw a "moderate rise" in loan volume, according to the Fed's quarterly economic survey known as the Beige Book.

Part of that was due to a spike in business-credit activity, while commercial real estate lending helped boost other districts.

Bankers in the Cleveland district said "demand of business credit grew slightly during the past six weeks.

"No loan category or industry is performing significantly better than others, although many bankers noted that commercial-real-estate lending has picked up," according to the Fed's survey.

In New York, small to medium-sized banks across the districts found reduced demand by consumer loans and home purchases, but amped up demand for commercial mortgages and commercial and industrial loans.

Contacts in the Kansas City district also noted improvement in loan demand.

"Bankers reported steady overall loan demand, improved loan quality, and stable deposit levels in November," according to the Fed's survey.

Improvements in loan demand appeared driven by financing for construction projects, bankers in the San Francisco district said.

"Some slower growing regions experienced tepid growth of business investment that held back the pace of lending," in the San Francisco district, according to the Fed's survey.

Separately, some bankers eased lending standards due to aggressive competition for quality loans in the Philadelphia, Richmond, and Atlanta districts, among others.

In the Philadelphia district, "banking contacts continued to express concerns about aggressive competition on rates and terms, suggesting that credit standards have continued to ease slightly," according to the Fed's survey.

Additionally, lower residential mortgage activity was reported in many districts with lenders in Chicago and Atlanta attributing that decline to higher interest rates.

Bankers in the Atlanta district said "mortgage lending and refinancing activity slowed as mortgage interest rates increased."

With residential mortgage activity declining, bankers in the Chicago district noted a rise in consumer borrowing for new purchases and refinancing of autos.

Higher rates also caused a reduction in demand for home refinancing applications in New York, Atlanta, and Dallas.

In the Dallas district, bankers said "loan demand softened across most lines of businesses in the past six weeks" with refinancing continuing to decline.

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