The needle didn't move much, but the uptick in commercial loan demand at U.S. Bancorp and other big lenders provides at least a thread of hope for the return of asset growth.

Average commercial loans at U.S. Bancorp increased 1% from the second quarter to the third, the first sequential-quarter gain since the end of 2008, as customers, small and midmarket businesses especially, showed a renewed willingness to borrow.

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