U.S. small businesses took out more loans in December, according to the Thomson Reuters/PayNet Small Business Lending Index released Tuesday. Companies in consumer-dependent industries such as transportation, food and accommodation led the increase.
Loan delinquencies fell to 1.54%, separate PayNet data showed, a sign that despite an overall increase in borrowing in 2014, businesses are for the most part repaying what they owe. PayNet collects real-time loan information such as originations and delinquencies from more than 250 leading U.S. lenders.
The Index rose to 129.8, the third-highest level on record, and compares to an upwardly revised November reading of 117.6. The Index was set at 100 at its January 2005 launch, and peaked two years later at 131.7 before plummeting to about half that level around the time of the recession. The Index set a record of 132 in October 2014, the revised figures show.
PayNet founder Bill Phelan said that a decline in oil prices helped fuel the renewed borrowing.
Companies in the transportation business increased borrowing by 27% in December, he said, and borrowing by companies in food and accommodation rose 13%. That compares with overall year-on-year borrowing growth of 10%.
Regionally, small companies in oil patch areas like North Dakota pulled back on borrowing.