Big banks are showing a growing appetite for loans to small businesses.

Banks with at least $10 billion in assets approved 15.3% of loans between $25,000 and $3 million in January, up from 14.9% in December and from 11.7% a year earlier, according to an index published Thursday by Biz2Credit, which connects small and mid-size business borrowers with lenders.

"It appears that big banks are back into small-business lending," Rohit Arora, Biz2Credit's chief executive, said in a news release. "They are lending again, and this is how it should be."

The loan approval rate by small banks rose to 49.9% in January, up slightly from December, while approvals by credit unions slipped for the eighth consecutive month, to 46.9%.

Approvals by Community Development Financial Institutions and other nonbank lenders fell in January to 63.7%, compared with 63.8% a month earlier.

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

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