U.S. Small-Business Borrowing Rises in October

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Borrowing by small U.S. businesses rose in October, a report on Monday showed, as the central bank launched its latest round of monetary stimulus to encourage borrowing and spending.

The Thomson Reuters/PayNet Small Business Lending Index, which measures the overall volume of financing to small U.S. companies, rose to 107.5 from an upwardly revised 96.4 in September, PayNet said.

PayNet had initially reported the September figure as 94.1. Borrowing was up 11 percent in October from a year earlier.

PayNet founder Bill Phelan said the rise was likely less a reaction to the Fed's low-rate policy, which has been in place since December 2008, than a sense of growing optimism among smaller firms.

"They are seeing some profit-producing opportunities, and are wading in," Phelan said in an interview. "The odds have shifted toward some optimism for next year."

Small businesses are often responsible for the bulk of new job creation after recessions. The recent recession ended in 2009, but sluggish growth has meant weak job growth, and unemployment in October registered 7.9 percent, well above the 5.5 percent to 6 percent that many economists view as normal.

PayNet's lending index typically correlates to economic growth one or two quarters in the future.

The Federal Reserve in mid-September unleashed a new round of bond buying to lower borrowing costs and spur businesses to spend and, eventually, to hire.

Separate PayNet data showed financial stress at near-record-low levels. Accounts overdue by 30 days fell to 1.2 percent of the total from 1.21 percent the previous month, and were near the 1.17 percent record reached earlier this year. Phelan said a "normal" rate of delinquency is 1.5 percent to 1.6 percent.

Longer-term delinquency rates also eased. Accounts behind 180 days or more, which are considered in default and unlikely to be paid, fell to 0.29 percent from 0.32 percent.

Accounts behind 90 days or more, or in severe delinquency, were unchanged at 0.24 percent.

PayNet collects real-time loan information, such as originations and delinquencies, from more than 250 leading U.S. lenders.