Small businesses in the U.S. are borrowing at a slower pace as lending data dipped to a new six-month low in April, signaling a potential slowdown in the economy.
For the third consecutive month in April, the Thomson Reuters/PayNet Small Business Lending Index reported a decline to 123.1, a decrease of 5% compared to April 2016. It is also the lowest level the index has reached since October.
The changes in the index often correlate with declines or increases in GDP, following by one or two quarters in the future. In the first quarter, growth in the U.S. was anemic, increasing only by 1.2%. Economists have projected a turnaround in the second quarter with broader expansion and the Atlanta Fed estimates that GDP could reach as high as 3.8%.
Data from PayNet revealed also that smaller businesses are facing headwinds in paying off their previous loans. This is tracked by the number of loans which are late by over 30 days and in April, the rate rose to 1.7%. This rate is the highest amount during the past four years, but remains behind the 4.7% rate reached during the Great Recession.
Smaller companies could be facing additional pressures in the near term since the inability to repay loans back in a timely manner is often an indicator of the economy weakening. If the Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates, it could pose as another obstacle for business owners.
Borrowing in the health care sector was affected the most as lending declined by 14% in April as executives faced increasing uncertainty of the future of the Affordable Care Act as the Trump administration failed to deliver a replacement system.
The originations and delinquencies data from PayNet stems from the top 325 U.S. lenders.
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