Demand for Small-Business Loans Spikes, Despite Lower Optimism
The ground still may be frozen in parts of the U.S., but the small business sector has been blooming for months, as small business borrowing launches in 2014.
Demand for lending and financing among small companies last month increased 9.7 percent over January, according to the Direct Capital Small Business Lending Index. This spike occurred despite a Polar Vortex that cancelled thousands of flights and kept many potential customers shuttered indoors.
The uptick, paired with a recent bout of warmer weather, could signal an increased willingness among banks to throw open their coffers--or at least, entertain giving you a loan when they might have shied away before.
“Small businesses are perseverant people,” says Stephen Lankler, senior vice president of Direct Capital. “Despite what people describe as a tepid small business economy, more small businesses are taking out loans.”
The Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based small business lender’s Index also reveals a 23 percent increase in February over the same period a year ago. Direct Capital considers this surge in lending--as well as businesses paying back loans on time--a testament to increased confidence in consumer demand. The algorithm for the Index measures search engine inventory, credit activity of small businesses, and the demand Direct Capital itself sees.
Not a Bank Rush
But surely, not all businesses are rushing to the bank. The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), which publishes a monthly Small Business Optimism Index, tells a different story for February. The Index dropped 2.7 points to 91.4 last month, well below the pre-recession average of 100. The NFIB attributes survey respondents’ diminished optimism to uncertainty about the economy and the government.
If you're confused, you're not alone, says Ami Kassar, CEO of MultiFunding.com. He notes that contradictory indexes can make it difficult to nail down what’s happening with small business lending, despite anecdotal evidence that companies are healthier and lenders and more willing to dole out funds.
“It's extremely difficult, at least from my perspective, to consider any of these indexes that have come out to be statistically valid,” Kassar says. “There are so many new, alternative lenders in the market who are not required to report on their lending activity.”
Lankler, too, admits that conflicting information clouds the truth about the state of small business lending. But, he emphasizes that business owners would not be risking debt if they didn’t believe they would be able to leverage new capital.
“We talk to thousands of companies on a daily basis, and they’re expressing that they’re doing better than they have been,” Lankler says. “Many of them have plans to purchase equipment and grow their businesses.”