Europe's credit squeeze shows signs of easing

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — New data are showing that Europe's squeeze on credit to consumers and businesses may be easing slightly.

The European Central Bank's quarterly lending survey showed that banks on balance are no longer tightening their standards for giving people mortgage loans. Slightly more banks reported easier home loan standards than reported they were tightening credit.

The survey released Thursday also found "a small net easing in loans" to companies as fewer banks reported tighter standards. The ECB has cut its interest rate benchmark to a record low 0.25 percent. But those low rates often do not make it through to the economy in the form of cheaper, more abundant loans — a key factor holding back Europe's still-weak economic recovery. The eurozone grew a bare 0.1 percent in the third quarter.

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