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Banks bang drum on lending Add to ...

Economists at the big banks are pounding away on the theme their employers continue to lend, on the eve of a budget that's expected to push lenders to open the vaults.

Following repeated prodding to expand lending from Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, National Bank and Toronto-Dominion Bank published reports Monday to show the banks doing their bit.

"In Canada as elsewhere, lending conditions are tightened in times of economic slowdown," said Marc Pinsonneault, senior economist at National Bank Financial.  But he added: "Despite this tightening of lending conditions, growth in business credit outstanding has picked up recently in Canada. Credit to households do not display any sign of slowing worthy of concern."

So while the Finance Minister may contend that banks need to shovel out more loans, Mr. Pinsonneault, says "the impression that credit has dried up in Canada is groundless."

TD Bank economists Craig Alexander and Grant Bishop said much the same, noting that business credit expanded by 13.2 per cent year-over-year in December, "fuelled by Canadian-denominated business loans and much expanded reliance on Bankers' Acceptances."

And household credit increased 12.4 per cent, year-over-year, "spurred by exceptional growth in mortgage lending and lines of credit."

Somehow, this latest raft of research doesn't seem likely to stop the Finance Minister's crusade for easy credit from banks as an essential element of the Conservatives' budge, and stimulus package.

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