Banks are continuing to increase lending to small businesses.

Institutions with at least $10 billion in assets approved 15.9% of loans between $25,000 and $3 million in February, up from 15.3% in January and from 11.7% a year earlier, according to an index published Tuesday by Biz2Credit, which connects small- and midsize business borrowers with lenders.

The loan approval rate by small banks rose to 50.3% in February, up slightly from January, while approvals by credit unions slipped for the ninth straight month, to 45.9%.

"Small business lending is a profitable business," Rohit Arora, Biz2Credit's chief executive, said in a press release. "I'm surprised it has taken so long for some players to get back into the game."

The approval rate by Community Development Financial Institutions and other nonbank lenders was unchanged in February compared to a month earlier, at 63.7%.

The Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index reflects an analysis of roughly 1,000 loan applications each month on

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