Loans to small and medium sized businesses have fallen by their biggest amount since the low point of the last recession.  

Figures from the Central Bank show a net decline in core business loans of €1.4 billion in the third quarter of this year - the largest quarterly fall since the first quarter of 2011. 

On an annual basis, credit has fallen by 7.9% - the largest annual decrease since the third quarter of 2012. 

Core business loans are for non-financial and non-property purposes. Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are those employing fewer than 250 people with sales of less than €50m a year.  

The Central Bank figures show that the weighted average interest rate on outstanding loans to SMEs stood at 3.49% in the third quarter. It fell 0.13% over the quarter and 0.04% over the year.  

Repayments exceeded new lending by €1.1 billion in the year to the end of September, the Central Bank figures show. 

The total amount of outstanding loans to Irish resident businesses - both SMEs and large enterprises - amounted to €72.3 billion at the end of September. This was the lowest level of outstanding credit since the bank began compiling this series. 

Conversely, total deposits held by businesses grew by €6.2 billion in the third quarter and by €20.6 billion in the year to the end of September to mark the largest annual increase ever recorded.