Lenders Weigh In on Economy; Question TARP’s Ability to Boost Lending

A mere three percent of lenders believe that TARP will have a “meaningful” impact on their lending practices, according to Phoenix Management’s “Lending Climate in America” survey, released Thursday. Fifty-five percent of respondents opined that the TARP would have a “modest impact” on lending. Thirty-six percent believe the TARP will have “minimal impact”, while the remaining six percent of respondents believe the TARP will have absolutely “no impact” on lending. Since TARP’s implementation, banks have been slammed for not using TARP funds to make loans. Many banks have chosen to utilize TARP funds primarily to shore up their balance sheets — one of the mechanisms intended by the Treasury, but one that has been questioned, indeed. “I agree that Secretary Paulson, whom I generally admired, made a mistake in not pushing them to do more lending,” said House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank to U.S. News Monday. “I think you’re going to see the Obama administration, having learned from that, push for more lending. There are going to be some rules in there.” The Obama administration’s financial bailout plan is expected to include valiant efforts to boost lending practices. According to the survey, lenders’ long-term outlooks of the economy’s performance fell to a “D” expectation level  – the lowest level in the 13-year history of the quarterly survey. An overwhelming majority – 91 percent – designated the reduction in consumer purchasing power as the economic issue borrowers are most concerned with in the near term. Michael Jacoby, Managing Director and Shareholder of Phoenix Management Services, said 83 percent of respondents believe the bottoming out of the residential housing market will be the most important factor that will assist the U.S. in recovering from this recession. When asked to identify the two most important factors, 31 percent selected the flow of credit to long-term mortgages. Twenty-seven percent of lenders chose the Obama administration and other factors. The percentage of respondents with customers having no growth expectations over the next 6 to 12 months continued to rise significantly from recent quarters to 78 percent – the highest level recorded in this survey in the last eight years. Twenty-two percent of lenders said their customers had moderate growth expectations, down from 49 percent in the previous quarter. The percentage of lenders expecting to tighten their existing loan structures increased to 65 percent, compared to 47 percent in the previous survey. As a result, the percentage of respondents planning to maintain their loan structure fell to 35 percent, versus 53 percent in the previous survey. Write to Kelly Curran at Disclosure: The author held no relevant investment positions when this story was published. Indirect holdings may exist via mutual fund investments. HW reporters and writers follow a strict disclosure policy, the first in the mortgage trade.

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