Many eurozone businesses are still not getting the loans they need to expand – despite ultra-low interest rates – hobbling the region’s economic recovery.
Newly released figures show that lending to companies contracted at the fastest pace on record in November.
Banks remain reluctant to take on new risk and instead are trying to reduce their loan commitments.
The data put pressure on the European Central Bank to do more to revive the currency bloc’s economy.
It has cut interest rates to a record low and pumped extra liquidity into the banking system.
The biggest decline was in Spain, where loans made to firms were down 13.5 percent on the same month a year earlier.
Just five eurozone countries saw corporate lending grow in November, with France the only large economy among them.
One factor which could have made banks more hesitant to lend is a bank asset-quality review – health checks – the ECB will conduct this year.
Before the ECB starts supervising banks from November next year, it will run a series of tests on the eurozone’s largest lenders to uncover potential balance-sheet risks and capital shortfalls.
The asset-quality review is based on banks’ balance sheet at the end of 2013. ECB policymakers have admitted that could have crimped lending in the last months of last year.