Small business owners received some good news this week as it was reported that lending to them has increased for the first time in 10 quarters. According to a report at Inc.com, the U.S. Small Business Administration released its quarterly report this week showing the loans to small businesses have increased for the first time in more than two years, a potential sign that some companies are coming out of the economic recession. Overall, lending to small businesses increased by four-tenths (0.4) of a percent, from $584.1 billion in September last year to $586 billion by the end of 2012. Less restrictive standards for commercial and industrial (C&I) loans led to the increase in lending to small businesses. Commercial real estate (CRE) lending continued to lag, according to data from the Small Business Administration report. Demand for both loans continues to be high, a sign that businesses are recovering from previous economic downturns. The SBA report notes that loans in all size categories (under $1 million, between $100,000 and $1 million, and under $100,000) all saw increases during the final quarter of last year. Big banks lent more to small businesses than smaller financial institutions and the gains in big bank loans offset the declines realized among smaller banks. We reported last year on this trend, with bigger financial institutions lending more to small businesses even as loans from smaller banks were approved less often. Big banks have been criticized in the past for not lending to smaller businesses. According to the SBA report: \u201cLarger institutions of $1 billion or more helped offset the declines in lending by the smaller lending depository institutions. Small business lending by institutions with assets of $50 billion or more followed the general trend and remained unchanged.\u201d Wells Fargo loaned the most money to small businesses last year, according to Inc.com's data. The bank loaned $32.8 billion through 664,542 loans.\u00a0Bank of America ($26.2 billion), JPMorgan Chase ($19.8 billion), American Express Bank ($16.9 billion), U.S. Bank ($13.8), PNC Bank ($9.9 billion), Branch Banking and Trust Co. ($9.1 billion), Citibank ($9.1 billion), Regions Banks ($6.9 billion), and TD Bank ($6 billion) rounded out the top 10 banks lending to small businesses, based on data provided by SNL Financial Services.