NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Loan growth was the one bright spot in the third quarter earnings season for banks, amid shrinking margins, higher expenses and challenging fee income and trading environments.
For the greater part of the recovery, investors have been disappointed by the lack of revenue growth at banks as loan demand withered and underwriting standards tightened.
In recent quarters, however, banks have been able to manage some loan growth, especially in the commercial and lending segment.
The average loan balances at the 21 largest banks increased 1% over the previous quarter, according to KBW, with 80% seeing quarter on quarter growth. Commercial and industrial lending has led the way, with bankers still talking about increasing price competition as lenders battle for market share.Loan growth still remains elusive for Bank of America (BAC), which saw overall loans fall 1%. The bank also lost its position as the biggest bank by assets in the third quarter to JPMorgan Chase (JPM - Get Report). Still, investors appear wary of increased lending amid a significantly weaker economic outlook. Banks have come a long way in improving credit quality and investors fear that they might be loosening their lending standards just at a time when the economy looks set to slip into a recession again. More bullish analysts argue that banks that are able to manage loan growth when business confidence is admittedly weak are poised to benefit the most in a recovery. Banks are also eager to show that they are lending to small and medium businesses amid criticism from Occupy Wall Street protesters that bankers are not doing enough to boost the economy and create jobs. TheStreet came up with a list of ten banks that have seen strong double-digit growth on a year-on-year basis in commercial, agricultural and financial loans. The shortlist was arrived at by screening for banks with a total assets of more than $5 billion, for which third quarter commercial lending data was available from SNL Financial. Here are 10 banks growing business loans even as the economy is flailing.