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U.S. Banks Ease Business Loan Standards in Q2 2018

U.S. banks reported easing business lending standards while keeping commercial real estate loans virtually unchanged in the second quarter of the year, a Federal Reserve survey showed. Loan officers also reported seeing higher demand for business loans from small business and less demand for commercial real estate loans.

According to the U.S. central bank, virtually all domestic banks cited greater competition from other lenders as a reason for easing. Higher risk tolerance and greater liquidity in the secondary market also played a role in the easing.

In the first quarter, banks reported easing standards for some commercial real estate loans and many business loans.

The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates seven times since December 2015. Two rate hikes have already been imposed this year, with an additional two forecasted for 2018.

In the second quarter of the year, about 17% of banks eased standards for business loans to large businesses. More than 10% of banks had eased terms for small businesses.

About 6.5% of banks tightened standards for credit cards during the same period. Auto and residential real estate loans remained unchanged in the quarter.

Jim O’Sullivan, head U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, said the Fed’s latest survey shows a modest net easing of financial conditions and reinforces the argument for tightening.

The central bank surveyed loan officers at 72 domestic banks and 22 branches of agencies of foreign banks.

News of looser business loan standards comes as many banks are looking to offer better financing options to businesses to compete with new lending alternatives. Barclays just announced that it is expanding its invoice financing offering for its SME clients. The company has partnered with MarketInvoice, the largest online invoice factoring platform in Europe.

The platform allows businesses to upload their invoices and sell them to investors, which provides the business with much-needed cash during the invoice’s payment period.

MarketInvoice has financed more than 90,000 invoice since its launch, totaling more than £2.7 billion.

Ian Rand, CEO of Barclays Business Bank, said invoice financing allows small businesses to obtain the funding they need in a fast, efficient way.

“It is a product that has come of age in the digital era, it’s efficient, effective and controllable for small businesses,” Rand said.

Invoice factoring and other alternative financing options provide borrowers with more options for obtaining the cash they need. Increased competition from these lenders has driven banks to ease business lending standards to attract and maintain borrowers.

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