Banks in the U.S. reported stronger demand for auto loans and commercial and residential mortgages during the third quarter, according to a Federal Reserve survey.
The Fed described the share of banks reporting increased demand as “significant.” Demand for most other loan types was “about unchanged,” the Fed said in Washington in its quarterly survey of senior loan officers.
The report provides further evidence that sales of cars and homes, bolstered by record-low interest rates from the central bank, are helping to fuel the U.S. economic recovery. The gains are helping to shield the world’s largest economy from a decline in exports and cooling business investment.
Cars and light trucks sold at a 14.9 million annual pace in September, the most since March 2008, according to Ward’s Automotive Group. New homes sold at a 389,000 annual pace in September, the most in more than two years, according to a Commerce Department report last week.
The Federal Open Market Committee reviewed the bank survey on Oct. 23-24 during a meeting in Washington in which it decided to continue purchasing $40 billion a month in mortgage-backed securities until the labor market improves “substantially.”
Central bankers will know more about the job market on Nov. 2, when the Labor Department issues employment data for October, the last monthly report before the Nov. 6 presidential election. The median estimate of economists in a Bloomberg survey calls for 125,000 jobs to be added in October and for the unemployment rate to rise to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent.
The Fed loan officer survey showed that while demand is increasing, standards for residential real-estate loans were little changed. Banks eased standards for business loans, as well as credit-card and auto loans. The share of banks loosening credit was described as “small.”
The survey of loan officers at 68 domestic banks and 23 U.S. branches and agencies of foreign banks was conducted from Sept. 25 until Oct. 9, the Fed said. The report doesn’t identify respondents.
The share of banks tightening their lending standards to European banks “declined significantly between the July and October surveys,” the central bank said.
A recovery in the U.S. real-estate market is helping to boost the economy after the collapse in mortgage finance pushed the country into the longest recession since the Great Depression. Residential construction increased at a 14.4 percent rate in the third quarter, according to a Commerce Department report last week.
The pickup in homebuilding added 0.3 percentage point to third-quarter gross domestic product. GDP grew by 2 percent in the third quarter, up from 1.3 percent in the second quarter.
Residential real-estate prices increased in the year ended August by the most in two years. The S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values in 20 cities rose 2 percent from August 2011, the biggest year-to-year gain since July 2010, the group said yesterday in New York.
Wells Fargo & Co., the largest U.S. mortgage lender, posted a record third-quarter profit on Oct. 12, as low interest rates have helped spur refinancing. Mortgage banking income rose to $2.81 billion, up 53 percent from last year’s third quarter, according to the company.
The average cost of a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage reached a record low 3.36 percent on Oct. 4, according to a Freddie Mac index.
The recovery in housing is boosting both financial institutions and homebuilders. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Financials Index of 81 companies is up 22 percent this year, compared to 12 percent for the overall S&P 500 Index. The S&P Supercomposite Homebuilding Index is up 82 percent this year.
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