Banks report tougher credit standards in wake of failures

By Christopher Rugaber, The Associated Press | May 8, 2023 | Last updated on May 8, 2023
2 min read

A Federal Reserve report Monday showed that banks raised their lending standards for business and consumer loans in the aftermath of three large bank failures and expect to lift them more this year, a trend that could slow the economy in coming months and increases the risk of a recession.

The report, known as the senior loan officers survey, asked banks if they have tightened their lending standards by taking steps such as demanding higher credit scores, charging higher interest rates, or requiring more collateral, among other steps that altogether would make it harder for businesses and consumers to obtain loans.

The report follows other signs that the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank and First Republic Bank in the past two months has caused other financial institutions to reduce their lending to conserve capital.

Federal Reserve officials and economists will closely scrutinize the report, because tighter credit standards are expected to be followed by a reduction in lending. That could force businesses to pull back on expansion plans and reduce hiring, and could limit sales of cars and homes.

About 46% of all banks said they had raised standards for business loans known as commercial and industrial loans, up from just under 45% in the previous quarter. That increase was not as dramatic as in previous quarters, but banks were tightening credit before the bank failures. A year ago, slightly more banks were easing credit standards than raising them.

The Fed’s survey also found that a majority of banks plan to tighten their credit further this year.

“That will starve firms and households of credit and help push the economy into recession in the second half of this year,” Michael Pearce, lead U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, wrote in a note.

The survey respondents were 65 U.S. banks and U.S. branches of 19 foreign banks. The results were gathered from March 27 to April 7, well after Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank collapsed in early March, touching off the latest round of bank turmoil. First Republic bank failed a week ago, the second-largest bank failure in U.S. history.

The Fed’s report said that mid-sized banks — those with assets between $50 billion and $250 billion, like the three banks that failed in March — were more likely to report tighter standards.

The banks also said they are restricting credit for most consumer loans, including auto and credit card lending and home equity lines of credit.

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Christopher Rugaber, The Associated Press

Christopher Rugaber is a reporter with The Associated Press,  an American not-for-profit news agency headquartered in New York City and founded in 1846.