Over this past weekend we noted that the Fed’s latest weekly commercial bank loan data revealed some rather shocking deterioration in year-over-year loan growth. As shown in the chart below, after growing 4.6% one week ago, total loans and leases grew only 4.2% in the week ended March 8: the lowest growth rate since May 2014. However, it was once again the Commercial and Industrial loans creation – or lack thereof – which was more problematic, because after growing 4.0% on a year over year basis as of March 1, and 5.7% one month ago as of February 8, the growth rate has since tumbled to just 2.9%, a 1.1% decline in the growth rate over the past week.
As shown in the chart below, on a cumulative 4-week basis the slowdown in C&I loan creation tumbled by 2.8% as of the latest period: this was the biggest monthly slowdown going back to the financial crisis.
That said, many equity analysts have dismissed the sudden collapse in new business loans as the fortunate side effect of a long-term positive trend whereby corporates are tapping the fixed-rate bond market to take advantage of current low rates and extend out bank debt while reducing exposure to rising floating rates.
And while that’s a very convenient explanation, particularly for equity bulls, it would seem to ignore the fact that C&I lending standards seemed to tighten at the precise moment that loan volumes started to drop…i.e., it wasn’t a loan demand problem from borrowers but rather a loan supply problem from the banks that caused the collapse in issuance growth. From Bloomberg:
But it’s not just business loan volumes that are drying up as banks are pulling back in consumer segments as well. Auto loan growth, for example, was hovering around 8-9% for the first 3 quarters of 2016 but have collapsed over the past 6 months.
So are auto borrowers also tapping the high-yield market to buy their new Camaro’s? Or, is it possible that banks are starting to take notice of the accelerating delinquency rates that we’ve been pointing out for a while now?
Perhaps banks also noticed that upticks in YoY changes in auto delinquency rates have historically been a fairly decent indicator that all is not well with the economy.
Meanwhile, credit card charges offs are spiking to ‘great recession’ levels as well. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to blame this metric on the high-yield market.
Could it be that banks are actually starting to act prudently with their capital and react to the deteriorating data that equity markets seem all too happy to dismiss?