More annoyance over bank lending
There’s a lot of chatter about, not least in government circles, that banks are not lending to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) which are the main job creators in the British economy.
Banks are currently in an invidious position. They are being prodded to lend more, while simultaneously adding billions to their capital reserves. Non-expert ministers and MPs, such as Vince Cable, imagine that because a couple of banks received public money as a bailout, they are duty bound to risk yet more in a very uncertain marketplace.
What then are the facts for a bank like HSBC, one of the world’s largest:
So what are the facts? HSBC’s new small business lending was up 38 per cent in the first half; across all top banks and all small firms, the amount of new lending is down on 2009, at £520m per month, just enough to match repayments and defaults. Why? Demand for credit has dropped. Uncertainty means firms are trying to reduce their debt; small firms hold a record £56bn on deposit. HSBC’s corporate overdraft utilisation rate has fallen to 42 per cent, from 44 per cent: facilities are not being used. Rates are neither ultra-cheap nor extortionate: small corporate borrowers are not usually being priced out.
The supply of credit has also diminished. Banks have rightly become more realistic when assessing projects in a low-growth environment. Some lenders have quit the market. The remaining ones have been told to put more money aside (boosting capital), to shrink balance sheets, and to borrow less on the wholesale markets (a problem given that low saving rates have forced many banks to rely on money markets to fund new loans).
It’s not rocket science. Perhaps the Lib Dem contingent in the Coalition Government will have less to say on the matter in future.
Quote: City AM