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A Graphical Look at October’s Senior Loan Officer Survey:

November 3rd, 2008 Michael McDonough
Back in January I did a piece discussing the predictive power of the Senior Loan Officer Survey, and found that there was some significance to the data. For the survey banks’ senior loan officers are asked to answer multiple questions based on their lending standards and demand for commercial/residential loans as well as consumer loans. The survey is conducted during the first month of the applicable quarter. (i.e. Q108 data is collected during Jan. 2008) This more or less implies the data has a forward looking aspect, since the applicable quarter has only begun when the data is collected. This data is reviewed by the Federal Reserve for conducting monetary policy.

Unfortunately, the October 2008 survey doesn’t look much better than it did back in January. Lending standards have continued to tighten and demand has diminished. Currently, the survey concurs with the view that US economy is in a recession, which shows no immediate signs of abating. Here is a quick outline on where the survey can be important in analyzing future trends:

Non-residential Investment:

We found that the strongest relationship exists between non-residential investment and the data in the survey related to the number of banks tightening lending standards to businesses , businesses’ demand for lending, and the cost of lending. In fact, the correlation between this data and non-residential investment is strong enough to pass-through to overall real GDP growth, but as you would expect with a smaller magnitude. We found that the reason for the relationship is because the level of business lending drops when costs and lending standards increase and demand drops, all of which are measured in the survey. Presently, all of these indicators point towards continued deterioration of non-residential investment.

Residential Investment:
We also found that the lending standards and demand for mortgages data is correlated with residential investment, although not at the same significance as business lending with non-residential investment. We found the strongest result between residential mortgage demand and residential investment, but unlike the non-residential relationship it was not strong enough to pass-through to overall real GDP growth. Nonetheless, without a loosing in lending standards it is unlikely we can see a sustained recovery in the US housing sector.

Personal Consumption Expenditure:
Unfortunately, historically we did not find any significant relationships. However, there has never been an instance over the available time series where credit card and consumer loan lending standards have increased by the magnitude we are currently experiencing. With this said, I do expect this to continue having a negative impact on consumer spending.

Here is the Data:

Net Percentage of Domestic Respondents Tightening Standards for C&I Loans

Notes: This graph would imply a continued slowdown for non-residential investment. Also interesting to note but not represented in this data is that many banks not only increased lending standards, but also reduced the maximum size and maturities on loans to all sized of businesses.

Net Percentage of Domestic Respondents Increasing Spreads of Loan Rates over Banks’ Cost of Funds

Notes: Like the graph above, this graph also implies a continued slowdown for non-residential investment.


Net Percentage of Domestic Respondents Reporting Stronger Demand for C&I Loans

Notes: This graph implies that demand for business loans has not collapsed bu has shown signs of slowing. This is likely due to businesses requiring less credit to finance equipment, plant, and inventory expansions: Again pointing to a slow down in the business sector.

Commercial Real Estate Market

Notes: This graph implies there could be further deterioration in the commercial real estate market.

Net Percentage of Domestic Respondents Tightening Standards for Mortgage Loans

Notes: Lending standards for the residential mortgage sector continue to tighten. However, we did see marginal improvement for the prime mortgage sub-component.


Net Percentage of Domestic Respondents Reporting Stronger Demand for Mortgage Loans

Notes: After showing some signs of recovery demand for residential mortgages has once again begun to drop according to the survey.

Net Percentage of Domestic Respondents Tightening Standards on Consumer Loans

Notes: This graph implies tighter lending standards for credit cards and consumer loans could have an adverse effect on consumer spending. I agree with this assumption and do not see US GDP growth to move above trend until post 2010, mostly due to a decrease on consumer spending.

All in all in my opinion the implications of this survey are that things will get worse before they get better. Not only are tough times at hand for consumers, but also for businesses and the real estate sector. Over the next couple months, I expect we will see disappointing holiday sales, which should lead to lower than currently anticipated 4Q08 earnings and a prolonged period of below trend economic growth. This will likely continue to stoke the current volatility we have seen in the worlds’ financial markets.

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