Firm Credit in Europe: A Tale of Three Crises
This paper analyses the effects of the recent euro area economic, financial and debt crisis on SMEs’ access to bank finance. We use a survey on access to finance of SMEs in the euro area carried out by the European Central Bank during 2009 and 2010 to examine the impact of macroeconomic factors on developments in loan applications and approvals as well as changes in credit terms and conditions. At the country level, we identify three distinct aspects of the recent crisis in Europe affecting firm credit through different channels. A weak real economy is found to affect the demand for bank financ- ing. Financial conditions (proxied by the median credit default swap for banks in each country and sovereign yields) predominantly affect the probability of loan rejection and the terms and conditions of credit rather than the demand for credit. We interpret this as evidence of a bank balance sheet channel negatively impacting credit provision. Crucially, the level of debt overhang affects all aspects of SME financing, with suggestive evidence that the effect on credit rejection operates through the bank balance sheet channel, as opposed to being due to the borrower balance sheet.
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