Sunday, June 12, 2011

C&I Loan growth is accelerating



Both of these charts show Commercial & Industrial Loans, which are a good measure of bank lending to small and medium-sized businesses. (Latest datapoint is June 1st.) The top chart gives some historical perspective, while the bottom chart plots weekly values since last September, which marked the point when loans began to grow after falling for the previous two years.

Over the past three months, C&I Loans have grown at a 12.2% annualized rate, and they have grown at a 10.1% annualized rate over the past six months. Each of those growth rates is almost twice the rate recorded at the end of March (6.8% and 5.8%), so it is clear that lending activity is really picking up.

This is good news not because loans are needed to fuel growth, but because it shows that a) banks are more willing to lend and b) businesses are more willing to borrow. That adds up to a big increase in confidence, and that is what it takes for new investment, which in turn is what it takes for new jobs.

This news is a welcome change to the seemingly overwhelming supply of bad news and pessimism which prevail these days. The economy is of course still laboring under the weight of many structural problems (e.g., questionable monetary policy, bloated government spending, crushing regulatory burdens, and the threat of higher tax burdens), but news such as this is important to stress, because it shows the despite all the problems, economic life goes on and there are still many people willing to pursue new business and profit opportunities. This is key to understanding why the U.S. economy is still one of the world's most dynamic. Imagine if those headwinds were to diminish under a new administration with a laser focus on cutting spending, reducing regulatory burdens, cutting taxes ....

13 comments:

BBL Jr said...

Nice article and good news as you state. One quibble is that i have to question whether easing regulatory burdens is a threat. There are necessary and unnecessary regulations and getting rid of the latter does not seem to pose a risk of overzealous implementation.

Bill said...

Scott,

What do you think it will take in the way of good news (or less bad news) to turn the markets around again? I just don't understand how the recent news of slower growth can justify such gloom. It's not as though GDP, ISMs, Retail Sales, etc. all turned negative.

Benjamin said...

How can we say QE2 did not work, if banks are increasing their loans? We know the banks are stuffed full of money now.

QE3 seems like a good idea.

And, if as alleged, QE2 only propped up the stock market (but not real estate), even that is a good idea. The wealth effect is not to be dismissed, not the optimism effect. I know the rally from 7k to 12k on the Dow revived many spirits.

honestcreditguy said...

benjamin,

You mean the 10% who actually enjoyed the Debt fueled rally? What about the 90%? What about the people who lived within their means and are now forced to play in the most crooked casino out there to capture some yield...

You are out of touch with reality...the banks wouldn't be here without the backstop and taxpayer? They are the speculators! Until they are shut down most all Americans will suffer....History just keeps on repeating....

Edward said...

honestcreditguy,

Every recovery starts with a stock market rally, regardless of the conditions. It's the nature of markets to discount the future. What I find particularly encouraging is how negative sentiment gets whenever we correct. That is bullish.

Rick said...

The Fed's 4/2011 survey of loan officers showed that most of these loans were being made by large banks to large companies for the purposes of inventory build and M&A activity in anticipation of an improving economy. Now that economic growth has slowed, I wonder how much growth this data will show in Q3 and Q4 as more companies get stuck with excess inventory built for an assumed increase in demand that did not materialize.

Benjamin said...

Honest Credit:

Get used to low yields, ala Japan. There is a lot of capital floating out there. The Fed cannot artificially raise yields.

Besides, it appears that inflation is nearly dead. Forget the headline stuff--unit labor costs are falling, real estate is dead.

Hard to see inflation under these circumstances. Rents and labor are getting cheaper.

If you want yield, then you are going to have to take risk.

Scott Grannis said...

Bill: one candidate that could spark a turnaround is weekly claims. If the seasonal adjustment problem works out as I think, we ought to see an "unexpected" decline in adjusted claims begin in a few weeks.

John said...

Bill,

Watch oil. The Saudis are increasing production this fall into a glutted market. If oil breaks, it would, IMO, be bullish.

Jason P. said...

Do you think a factor contributing to the uptrend in C&I loans is/was the thought buy borrowers that the Fed was going to raise rates in the summer/fall of this year? Now, of course, most know that this is not going to happen. I wonder if at might be an element of this loan rise.

Scott Grannis said...

Jason: I doubt it. Since late last year, the market has been expecting the Fed to keep rates low throughout 2012, and to tighten only gradually beginning in the first quarter of 2013. I think the upturn is a combination of a) less stringent loan standards at many banks, and b) more confidence on the part of businesses. This is a natural combination that comes in the early stages of every business cycle.

Jason P. said...

I don't have the data in front of me to show it, but I do believe that back on the very early part of 2011 the probability of a Fed rate hike occurring by the latter part of 2011 was much higher than it had been previously or is today. It persisted for a little stretch. I don't think I was hallucinating, but who knows.

Scott Grannis said...

Jason: you are correct. Last December and in early January of this year the market was expecting one hike from the Fed before the end of 2011, and a total of two hikes by Mar. '12. But to my mind that is hardly enough in the way of incentives (borrow now before rates go higher) to have turned around the moribund C&I Loan situation. Besides, one-year forward rate hike expectations have been with us for several years now (i.e., the market has been expecting a hike or two in a year's time for a long time).

Don't forget also that the interest rate on C&I Loans is not necessarily a direct function of the Fed funds rate. Prime lending rates are typically 300 bps above Libor, but not everyone gets to borrow at Prime.