Small and medium-sized businesses in the construction sector attracted the highest interest rate on new loan drawdowns of any sector, data shows.
Rates on new drawdowns to construction SMEs are at 5.14pc, although that is down 11 basis points in the last year, according to the figures from the Central Bank covering the final three months of last year.
The weighted average interest rate on new non-financial SME loans has come down, though, but rates on new lending remain higher than existing debt.
And the margin between rates charged on new drawdowns and existing loans increased to 84 basis points, although this is a 25 basis point decrease compared to the previous year's margin.
Only the electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply sector recorded lower rates on new drawdowns compared to existing stock of loans during the quarter.
Overall, on an annual basis, new lending to core SMEs was €3.7bn, representing a 14pc increase on the same period in 2016.
The weighted average interest rate on new non-financial SME loan drawdowns was 4.1pc in the final three months of last year.
This represents a decline of 16 basis points over the year. The Central Bank said new lending rates declined in most economic sectors over the past year.
The biggest decline was seen in the health and social work sector, where rates declined by 276 basis points.
"Construction SMEs experienced a decrease of 11 basis points over the same period, but still attract the highest interest rate on new drawdowns of any sector," the Central Bank noted.
"Over the quarter, higher than average rates were also charged on new drawdowns by SMEs engaged in the wholesale/retail activities and agriculture sectors.
"Rates on new drawdowns to construction SMEs, at 5.14pc, remained significantly higher than rates to the real-estate sector, at 3.54pc."
Gross new lending to core SMEs was €1.1bn during the final quarter, the highest value reported since the series began in 2010.
New drawdowns totalled €3.7bn over the past 12 months, reflecting a 14pc year-on-year increase.
The data comes just days after the head of the Credit Review Office, John Trethowan, said banks no longer make the effort to get to know small and medium-sized firms when they apply for loans.
Mr Trethowan said a persistent finding in the Department of Finance SME credit demand surveys is that there has been a decline in the demand for bank lending, from 40pc in 2013 to 23pc now, adding the closure of bank branches across the country could be the cause of lower demand for SME lending.
While the Central Bank data shows the level of lending to SMEs is increasing, it does not show the numbers of SMEs seeking credit.
Construction SMEs face the highest rates on drawdowns