Insights into euro area statistics

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Insights into euro area statistics. Presenting statistics with short explanations, in an easy-to-share format

23 June 2017

Positive trend in euro area bank loans to corporates continues

Bank loans to euro area corporates grew by 2.41% in April 2017 – continuing the positive trend of the last three years.

Bank loans to euro area corporates grew by 2.41% in April 2017 – continuing the positive trend of the last three years. The loan-to-deposit ratio continues to fall, standing at 107.1% in Q1 2017, down from its peak of 142.8% in Q3 2007.

After hitting a record high of 14.9% in March 2008, growth rates of bank lending to corporates fell sharply, turning negative between October 2009 and October 2010 and again between June 2012 and August 2015, with the lowest growth rate (-3.5%) observed in February 2014. Since then, euro area growth rates have recovered, entering positive territory again in September 2015.

The euro area aggregates reveal contrasting developments in national growth rates. Use the graph above to compare trends in bank loans to corporates across the euro area.

 

Turning to the loan-to-deposit ratio in the euro area, this has been on a continuous downward trajectory since peaking at 142.8% in Q3 2007, falling to 107.1% in Q1 2017. The ratio’s decline has been driven predominantly by a significant increase in household deposits.

Among the countries with a loan-to-deposit ratio consistently above the euro area average is Finland, which recorded the highest value in Q1 2017 at 162.2%. In the case of Greece, the ratio has risen significantly since Q4 2014 due to a considerable decline in total bank deposits. Spain and Portugal, however, are now exhibiting distinct downward trends after their peaks of 205.4% in Q1 2008 and 167.8% in Q2 2010 respectively, with Spain recording 117.6% and Portugal 102.7% (putting the ratio of Portugal below the euro area aggregate) in Q1 2017. Among the other countries with a loan-to-deposit ratio below the euro area aggregate, Belgium has historically shown the lowest levels, with a ratio consistently below 70.0% since Q4 2009. The ratios for Malta and Latvia have declined significantly in recent years, falling to 69.5% and 73.4% respectively in Q1 2017.

Bank loans are a source of financing for corporations and a key channel through which monetary policy decisions are transmitted to the real economy. Bank lending activities are assessed using their aggregated balance sheet statistics, allowing lending structures across all euro area Member States to be compared. These statistics form an essential part of the ECB’s monetary policy decision-making process.

 

A bank’s funding conditions, risk-taking capacity and perceptions of the corporate market are the main factors determining the supply side of bank lending. The demand side of bank lending is primarily driven by factors such as the level of indebtedness of the corporations, the corporations’ perception of risks and returns on investment, the economic outlook and finally the available conditions for capital market financing, a close alternative to bank lending.

 

The growth rates of loans to the corporate sector, calculated using transactions data, are used to gauge credit standards – higher growth rates are a sign that credit standards are easing. Historically, bank lending has been the preferred source of financing for European corporates, followed by direct financing through capital markets (by means of issuing debt or equity securities). Corporates favour certain financing sources depending on economy-wide and firm-specific characteristics. Small and medium-sized enterprises are more dependent on bank financing than large firms.

 

The loan-to-deposit ratio reflects the total amount of loans granted by banks divided by the total amount of deposits placed with banks at a specific point in time. The loan-to-deposit ratio is a liquidity indicator that gauges a bank’s ability to cover the withdrawal of deposits. From a bank’s perspective, loans represent long-term, mainly illiquid assets, while deposits are relatively short-term, liquid liabilities, as the size and timing of withdrawals are uncertain. The loan-to-deposit ratio also shows the proportion of a bank’s loans that is funded by deposits. A ratio lower than 100% means that banks can fund all loans by deposits, while a ratio higher than 100% implies that they are also borrowing money from other sources to fund some of the loans. If the ratio is very low, banks may not gain an optimal return. If the ratio is very high, banks may not have sufficient liquid assets to meet unexpected financial obligations in cases of large withdrawals.