Small Business Borrowing Falls in January While U.S. Banks Show Strong 4th Quarter
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Small Business Borrowing Falls in January While U.S. Banks Show Strong 4th Quarter

Small business lending dropped to the lowest level since October, according to the Thomson Reuters/PayNet Small Business Lending Index report. The index fell to 123.3 in January from 134 in December, indicating caution among small-business owners about demand in 2017.

The index data released Wednesday shows that in spite of the drop in borrowing, companies are not finding it harder to pay back existing debts. The share of loans more than 30 days past due remained unchanged at 1.66 percent.

Changes in the Small Business Lending Index typically correspond with changes in the quarterly gross domestic product. The index represents real-time loan information collected by PayNet from more than 325 U.S. lenders.

Since the election, many small business owners have cited optimism for policy proposals and the promise of deregulation from the new administration, while President Donald Trump’s stance on immigration and trade is increasing uncertainty for some.

While small businesses are cautious, consumer confidence reached its highest level since 2001 last month, according to data from the New York-based Conference Board. Consumers rated business and labor market conditions more favorably in February than in January and say they expect the economy to continue to expand.

U.S. Banks showed a strong 4th quarter, with earnings up 7.7 percent from last year’s 4th quarter. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) released data Tuesday indicating that while 4th quarter earnings were up, banks are still reporting bigger losses on loans, especially credit cards and commercial and industrial loans.

The FDIC data shows community banks were the strongest in the industry, reporting 8.3 percent 4th quarter lending growth. Community banks account for 43 percent of the industry’s loans to small businesses. President Trump and Republican lawmakers have blamed the 2010 Dodd-Frank banking restrictions for stifling community banks and small business borrowers. The President signed directives last month asking federal agencies to review options for canceling some of the existing regulations.