America’s credit crunch is easing. For the past six years, consumers and businesses have struggled to borrow money, but slowly, things are getting easier.
Large U.S. companies are taking advantage of low interest rates to borrow record amounts of capital in bond markets. Banks are opening the spigots for commercial and industrial firms, and loans grew at an 11% annualized rate in the first quarter of this year, the sixth double-digit percentage increase in seven quarters, Federal Reserve data show. According to the Fed’s survey of senior bank-lending officers released Monday, 28% of banks lowered the cost of credit lines early this year to smaller firms like Mr. Aaron’s that have annual sales of less than $50 million. Residential lending began edging up last year, and even people with bad credit can get a loan to buy a car these days.