Given Past Few Years, C&I Slowdown Isn’t At All Surprising

There isn’t much data available on the mechanics of lending or the other side of it borrowing. It’s a topic of interest nonetheless given the crucial role (sadly) of debt in determining the marginal economic direction (second derivative). A financialized economy is a drag without credit growth.

One of the more encouraging signs on that account was an acceleration of growth in commercial and industrial (C&I) loans in 2014. This category of lending/borrowing relates to the vital effort toward productive capex. Given the problems of this economy and the dearth of productive investment, the languishing of C&I after the 2012 slowdown was an ominous sign over the potential implications for that slowing.

The growth rate peaked, however, at just shy of 13% year-over-year in January 2015. That was slightly slower than the growth rate at the top before the slowing in 2012; 13.6% that July. Therefore, there wasn’t really anything all that robust about this segment of the lending market, at least in terms of the high side.

From that point forward, C&I lending has only further decelerated. On its own that might not have been much of a concern, as bond market offerings have been especially robust going back to 2009. In fact, the slight deceleration in 2013 was in all likelihood related to a surge in bond issuance after QE3.

But the “rising dollar” put a significant dent in the bond market so that 2015 and the first half of 2016 were scaled back in new financings. The lending market should have picked up the slack if it was all just transitory factors remixing the balance of corporate debt. Instead, growth in C&I never took off any further and has especially since the middle of last year tailed off considerably. As of May 2017, the latest data from the Federal Reserve’s H.8 series on Commercial Banks, reported C&I loans were just 2% more than what was estimated for May 2016. That’s the lowest growth rate since 2011, with no end yet in sight for this downturn.

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Author: Travis Esquivel

Travis Esquivel is an engineer, passionate soccer player and full-time dad. He enjoys writing about innovation and technology from time to time.

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