Lending to euro zone companies accelerated for the first time since February last month, coming off a five-and-a-half year low as the monthly flow of new loans doubled compared to a month earlier, European Central Bank data showed today.

Lending growth to firms picked up to 2.1% in September from 1.5% in August, as the monthly flow of loans adjusted for sales and securitisations surged to €23 billion, its highest rate since March.

But corporate lending growth stood at around half of pre-pandemic level and a survey by the ECB indicates even tighter credit standards in the fourth quarter, even as demand for credit is expected to increase.

Lending to households meanwhile eased a little to 4.1% last month from a 13-year high of 4.2% a month earlier.

The annual growth rate of the M3 measure of money supply, mostly a reflection of the ECB's copious bond purchases, slowed to 7.4% from 7.9%, just shy of market expectations for 7.5% growth.