All the big banks have been reporting their earnings, and they’re all reporting a rebound in commercial and industrial lending, including Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp and Wells Fargo, Citigroup, PNC Financial and others, which is leading to a rebound in lending overall.
It’s a good sign for the economy, because it shows that businesses, particularly the mid-sized ones that are job-creating engines, are getting more confident and borrowing money to do more of what they do, and presumably grow and hire more people.
Nationally, fewer commercial and industrial loans are delinquent, and lenders are easing their standards, said Toby Madden, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. More lending to businesses not only is a sign of an improving economy, but an economic stimulus.
“That reinforces itself in new plants and buildings, that means more economic activity is happening, which means that might create more demand for loans,” Madden said. “The good economic activity spurs more economic activity.”
I took a look at the Minnesota data from the FDIC (which only runs through the first quarter of 2014) and it shows that while lending to businesses is on the upswing in Minnesota, there’s still a long way to go to get back to pre-recession levels.
The collective commercial and industrial loan portfolio (the amount of loaned money at any given time, including lines of credit that are being used) for Minnesota banks ticked upward to $7.3 billion in the first quarter of 2014. That was the highest level since the end of 2009, but still 24 percent below the level in March 2009.
This lending to businesses tracked every other economic indicator in the downturn, dropping from $9.5 billion to $7.4 billion in 2009, as growth halted and businesses dug in for the recession. Lending levels continued to fall. As you can see, it’s been a slow climb back from the trough in March 2012.
Here’s the national data showing not the total amounts, but the annualized percent change by quarter. It shows that growth has returned across the country, but not growth on par with the boom years of 2006 and 2007, which is probably just fine.