Despite turmoil in the U.S. mortgage and private-equity markets, small-business owners seem to be having no trouble borrowing money, according to the National Federation of Independent Business.
In July, borrowing activity among the nation's small businesses rose 1 point to a net 36 percent in a monthly survey of the Washington-based lobby's 600,000 members. Typically, about a quarter of the group's members respond to the surveys.
By contrast, only a net 5 percent said loans were harder to get.
"Credit to support reasonable business activities remains readily available for small firms," William Dunkelberg, the group's chief economist, said in a statement. "There were no indications of credit stress in July, even in construction."
Yet, despite the ready access to loans, small-business owners are cutting back on capital spending -- even as more feel it is a good time to expand. Capital spending dropped 1 point last month to a net 27 percent of business surveyed. Over the past six months, capital outlays have fallen by 2 points to 58 percent, while spending plans for the months ahead were down a point to 27 percent.
Most owners reporting capital outlays bought new equipment. A smaller number bought vehicles or expanded existing facilities. Only about 7 percent acquired new buildings or land, the survey found.
At the same time, labor costs were putting downward pressure on earnings, with a net 27 percent of owners surveyed reporting higher wages, up one point from June.
"More firms are passing these costs on with higher sales prices, but the gap between the compensation hikes and price increases keeps pressure on profits," Dunkelberg said.