Eurozone bank lending terms eased in 2016: ECB survey

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Frankfurt am Main (AFP)

Eurozone banks offered borrowers easier repayment conditions in the final quarter of 2016 but became pickier about the businesses they granted loans to, a European Central Bank survey released Tuesday showed.

"Net easing of banks' overall terms and conditions on new loans continued across all loan categories," as in previous quarters, the central bank said in a statement.

Meanwhile, appetite for credit continued to grow, the survey of loan officers at 139 eurozone banks carried out in December found.

Both small and large businesses were looking to borrow more money in the fourth quarter, with the survey recording a 16-percent increase in demand compared with 11 percent between July and September.

The ECB pointed to low interest rates, plans for mergers and debt refinancing as the main drivers of demand for credit among businesses.

Low interest rates, a housing market trending upwards and high confidence also increased appetite for home loans among consumers.

But "banks' lower willingness to tolerate risk was the main factor" in a slight tightening of credit standards for firms, the ECB report said.

"This was the first net tightening since the fourth quarter of 2013," the central bank noted in its statement.

The ECB said the trend was driven mainly by the Netherlands.

"Credit standards on loans to enterprises remained unchanged in most large euro area countries, but tightened considerably in the Netherlands," the report noted.

Standards define the characteristics banks look for in potential borrowers before considering them for a loan.

Across the eurozone, the bank staff surveyed expected that firms as well as households would see slightly easier access to credit in the first quarter of 2017, the ECB said.