OCC: lending standards loosen somewhat from year earlier
Bank underwriting standards have eased since a year ago, but not by much. The 2010 survey of credit underwriting practices by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency showed 65% of banks tightened standards for commercial products and 74% tightened up retail lending. The survey measures the most-common types of credit offered by 51 of the largest national banks for the 12 months ended March 31. The value of the loans surveyed was $4 trillion, or more than 93% of all outstanding loans in the national banking system, according to the OCC. The year-ago survey indicated 86% of banks had tightened commercial lending during the 12 months ended March 31, 2009, while 82% ratcheted up standards for retail products during the period. "The financial market disruption of 2008 continued to affect bankers’ appetite for risk and resulted in a renewed focus by bank lenders on fundamental credit principles" the OCC said. Only 2% of banks said they were "easing up" on underwriting standards for commercial products, up none a year ago. The reason most banks aren't loosening up lending, the report said, is because of increased credit risk. The survey found that commercial real estate credit risk increased at 92% of the banks during the year, and that risk is expected to climb at 85% of the banks again next year. This includes underwriting loans in residential construction, commercial construction, and other miscellaneous CRE endeavors. Some 66% of banks tightened underwriting standards for small business loans, while credit risk for this sector increased at 85% of the banks surveyed. Moody's Investors Service reported on Monday that tighter credit restrictions are forcing small businesses to deleverage, thus driving up delinquencies. With regard to leveraged loans, 75% of banks tightened their underwriting standards, 88% noted an increased credit risk and none eased up on their standards. See below charts for full report on commercial underwriting standards and credit risk: Retail underwriting standards were hardly different. About 59% of banks tightened their underwriting standards for residential real estate, 5% eased up and 36% remained unchanged. Underwriting standards for conventional home-equity loans tightened at 60% of the banks, eased at 5% and remained unchanged at 35%. Meanwhile, 87% of banks tightened their standards with regard to high LTV home equity and none eased up. Examiners reported increasing credit risk in all retail products covered by the survey. Increased risk was most pronounced in credit cards, home equity, residential real estate, and direct consumer lending. "A key lesson learned from the financial market disruption is the need for bankers to apply sound, consistent underwriting standards regardless of whether a loan is originated with the intent to hold or sell," the OCC said. Write to Christine Ricciardi.