Banks have begun to loosen their lending standards for the first time since 2006, according to a new survey by the Federal Reserve.

The Fed’s quarterly survey indicated that, on net, banks had eased standards and terms over the previous three months on loans in some categories, particularly those categories affected by competitive pressures from other banks or from nonbank lenders. While the survey results suggest that lending conditions are beginning to ease, the improvement to date has been concentrated at large domestic banks. Most banks reported that demand for business and consumer loans was about unchanged.

Domestic survey respondents reported having eased standards and most terms on commercial and industrial loans to firms of all sizes, a move that continues a modest unwinding of the widespread tightening that occurred over the past few years. Moreover, this is the first survey that has shown an easing of standards on C&I loans to small firms since late 2006.

Significant net fractions of domestic banks also reported having eased their pricing of C&I loans to firms of all sizes. Banks pointed to increased competition in the market for C&I loans as an important factor behind the recent easing of terms and standards. Demand for C&I loans from large and middle-market firms and from small firms was reportedly little changed, on net, over the survey period after declining over the three months prior to the April survey.

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