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ABA: The American Bankers Association
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ABA Credit Conditions Index: Credit Market Expectations for Businesses and Consumers Confirm Solid Economic Outlook

WASHINGTON —

The chief economists of North America’s largest banks expect credit conditions to continue improving for both consumers and businesses over the next six months, according to the American Bankers Association’s latest Credit Conditions Index released today.

The latest summary of ABA’s Credit Conditions Index examines a suite of indices derived from the quarterly outlook for credit markets produced by ABA’s Economic Advisory Committee (EAC), which is comprised of chief economists from major banking institutions across North America. Readings above 50 indicate that, on net, the economists expect business and household credit conditions to improve, while readings below 50 indicate a deterioration.

The Q4 2021 report finds that, after strong readings over the last two quarters, near-term expectations for credit quality and availability eased somewhat for consumers and businesses but remain in positive territory. The findings suggest that credit quality and availability will improve for both groups over the next six months, though the pace of expansion may slow as the economy continues to normalize after rebounding from last year’s pandemic-induced recession.

“The Delta variant, along with inflationary pressures and significant supply chain constraints, have slowed the pace of the U.S. economic recovery,” said ABA Chief Economist and Head of Research Sayee Srinivasan. “However, both households and businesses are better positioned to deal with these headwinds relative to last year, setting the stage for sustained economic expansion. Banks will remain a critical source of credit access for businesses and consumers as the recovery continues.”

In the fourth quarter of 2021:

  • The Headline Credit Index fell 10.4 points to 66.3 in the fourth quarter following a small decline in Q3. The Headline reading is the lowest since the first quarter of this year though still well above 50, signaling that bank economists expect credit market conditions to improve over the next six months.
  • The Consumer Credit Index decreased 9.5 points to 67.3 in the fourth quarter. Expectations for consumer credit quality edged down, while expectations for consumer credit availability fell sharply. Though fewer EAC members expect credit availability to improve for consumers over the next six months compared to last quarter’s survey, the majority still expect that access will rise.
  • The Business Credit Index declined 11.4 points to 65.4 in the fourth quarter, driven by declines in both quality and availability. While the majority of EAC members expect business credit availability to improve, some members have become less optimistic than they were last quarter. Still, on balance business credit conditions remain positive by historical standards.

“The outlook for credit markets remains positive, as all three indices remain in expansionary territory,” said Srinivasan. “However, bank economists have identified ongoing supply chain constraints, potential virus mutations and/or rising cases as reasons for downgrading their economic outlook over the coming months. It remains to be seen whether there will be another surge of COVID-19 infections this winter.”

The full report with detailed charts and a discussion of the broader economic context is available here.

About the Credit Conditions Index

The ABA Credit Conditions Index is a suite of proprietary diffusion indices derived by the American Bankers Association from surveys of bank chief economists from major North American banking institutions. Since 2002, the bank economists have forecasted credit quality and availability for both businesses and consumers, indicating whether they expect conditions to improve, hold steady, or deteriorate over the ensuing six months. Readings above (below) 50 indicate that, on net, these expert business analysts expect credit market conditions to improve (deteriorate). Input from the bank economists is equally weighted in the indices. This data will remain anonymous, but historical index values are available upon request.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the ABA Credit Conditions Index can be found in an Appendix attached to the outlook. This report and all previous reports can be found at https://www.aba.com/news-research/research-analysis/aba-credit-conditions-index.

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About the American Bankers Association

The American Bankers Association is the voice of the nation’s $23.3 trillion banking industry, which is composed of small, regional and large banks that together employ more than 2 million people, safeguard $19.2 trillion in deposits and extend nearly $11 trillion in loans.

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