The Federal Reserve said on Monday banks continued to ease lending standards for larger firms in the last three months but small businesses are still having a hard time accessing credit.

The results from the central bank's quarterly senior loan officer survey suggest the ability of firms to borrow has continued to improve despite recent signs of weakness in the economic recovery.

A number of banks eased loan standards on auto and credit card loans, the Fed said.

Strong demand for prime mortgage loans offered further evidence that a nascent housing rebound is finally beginning to take hold.

U.S. banks are benefiting from new business due to a decrease in lending from European institutions, the survey found.

The U.S. central bank last week left monetary policy on hold but many analysts still believe it could launch a third round of bond purchases as early as September in an effort to support a still-fragile economy.

The Fed said banks received the survey on or after July 3, and responses were due by July 17.