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A key lending indicator signals the US economy is slowing

Reuters/William DeShazer
Hold the line.
John Detrixhe
By John Detrixhe

Future of finance reporter

A measure of US bank lending is showing signs of stalling, suggesting the American economy could face headwinds in 2020.

US commercial and industrial lending fell by $9 billion last month to $2.35 trillion, the biggest drop since March 2017, according to Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis data. The total amount of C&I loans declined to levels last seen in May.

The drop could be a sign the US industrial economy is slowing. Manufacturing activity fell to 47.2% last month, compared with 48.1% in November, according to the Institute for Supply Management’s survey. The decline marked the fifth-straight month of PMI contraction amid softness in exports and new orders.

“Global trade remains the most significant cross-industry issue,” Timothy Fiore, chair of the ISM manufacturing business survey committe, said in a statement last month. However, he noted that several industries could see improvement because of the phase-one trade agreement between the US and China.

As trade tensions ripple through the bank loan market, consumer spending could still be a bright spot for American lenders, according to the Financial Times (paywall), citing Capital One’s CEO, who recently said he is still “very bullish” about racking up new credit card customers. The McLean, Virginia-based bank’s executive also said loan delinquencies are “strong and stable.”

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