Frankfurt - Eurozone banks expect to tighten their lending rules in the coming months even as their own access to funding has improved, the European Central Bank said on Wednesday.
In its latest quarterly Bank Lending Survey, which quizzed a sample of 131 banks in the euro area, the ECB said a net 15% of respondents had said they expected to tighten the criteria that businesses must meet to take out loans in the first quarter of the year.
A net 13% of banks had already tightened their credit standards in the fourth quarter, the survey - conducted between December 14 and January 10 - showed.
At the same time, the survey found that banks' access to retail and wholesale funding had improved in the fourth quarter of 2012 and would continue to do so in the first quarter of this year.
On the demand side, overall demand for loans remained weak, the survey said.
"Euro area banks continued to report a pronounced net decline in demand for loans to enterprises in the fourth quarter of 2012," but a less pronounced decline in demand for loans to households for house purchase and for consumer credit, it said.
"As in the previous quarter... the net decline in the fourth quarter of 2012 was driven mainly by a substantial negative impact from fixed investment on the financing needs of firms," it explained.
Looking ahead to the current quarter, "banks expect a less pronounced net decline in demand for loans to enterprises, while they expect a more pronounced net decline in demand for loans for house purchase," the ECB said.
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