When it comes to commercial loans, the rich aren't getting richer. New York City banks may have the most dough, but their commercial and industrial loan portfolios aren't rising very fast. The Federal Reserve districts that post the largest gains in C&I lending are those headquartered in Boston, Atlanta, and Richmond, regional hubs not known for their banking giants.

"Larger banks aren't getting much out of the middle market -- small firms. That's where the growth [in loan demand] is," says Wayne D. Gantt, an economist at SunTrust Banks Inc., in Atlanta. "Those places that are traditionally large, money-centered bank areas -- San Francisco, Chicago, New York -- aren't growing as much." Many large banks have also been slowed by concerns about problem loans to Third World countries.

Commercial loans, most of which are made within a bank's own Fed district, tend to mirror economic trends. For example, 9 out of the top 10 states in personal-income growth from 1982 to 1985 are in New England or the Southeast -- the same regions that lead in C&I lending growth.

The severe economic troubles of the Farm-and Energybelts are reflected in figures for the Kansas City, Dallas, and Chicago regions, where lending dropped from the second quarter of 1984 to the second quarter of 1985. But parts of the Rustbelt are showing strength. The Cleveland and Philadelphia districts, comprising most of Ohio and Pennsylvania, continued to snap back during the same period, with solid C&I lending increases of close to 17%.

The chart on the left shows the growth rates for the 12 Fed regions.

C&I loans % change

outstanding 2nd qtr. '84-

Region 2nd qtr. '85 ($ mil.) 2nd qtr. '85

Boston 11,917 23.0

Atlanta 11,702 21.8

Richmond 16,141 21.2

St. Louis 4,349 21.0

Philadelphia 8,814 16.7

Cleveland 16,166 16.6

Minneapolis 4,940 14.1

San Francisco 51,977 7.4

New York 74,419 0.7

Kansas City 3,150 -0.3

Dallas 19,008 -3.8

Chicago 30,662 -5.0

Total 253,245 5.8