Plus, only 2 percent reported financing was their top business issue compared with 21 percent who cited taxes, 22 percent who pointed to regulations and red tape, and 14 percent who cited weak sales.
"Interest rates are low, but prospects for putting borrowed money profitably to work are not great and so loan demand remains weak among small-business owners," the NFIB said in a statement. And overall, capital spending remains in "replacement mode," not expansion mode.
U.S. Small Business Administration loans, meanwhile, have been recovering steadily. SBA loans for 2014, through the end of September, totaled $19.2 billion, up from 2012 and 2013 levels, but on par with $19.6 billion in loans recorded in 2011. Three years after the global economic crisis, pent-up demand pushed entrepreneurs to seek capital for needed repairs and replacement of equipment.
SBA loans are government backed and available through commercial lenders, which use their own criteria to assess creditworthiness and extend credit, while abiding by SBA guidelines.
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Additional data show lukewarm demand for capital among smaller companies.
Private demand for capital fell 6.2 percent during the third quarter of this year, according to Pepperdine University's Private Capital Access Index, done in partnership with Dun & Bradstreet Credibility, a global business insights firm. And about 42 percent of small-business owners surveyed said the current business environment is holding them back from growing.
To be clear, consumer confidence did rebound in October to a seven-year high. But some business owners say the ability to easily access loans remains challenging, and is eclipsing gains in consumer confidence.