Though recent reports saw small business lending up towards the end of 2012, experts are cautiously optimistic for lending in 2013.
According to the most recent data from the Reuters/PayNet Small Business Lending Index (SBLI), the overall volume of financing to small businesses increased to 108.3 in November, up from September's 14-month low of 94.1. But Bill Phelan, president and co-founder of PayNet, says that while the gains are a step in the right direction, overall 2012 small business growth was still "tepid" compared to 2010 and 2011.
"At the end of the day, this November high point is still below where the index started off at this year," Phelan told Inc. "In 2010, capital formation increased 20%, and in 2011, it increased 16%, telling us that small businesses grew and made substantial investments in those years. But for 2012 capital formation only increased 2%."
He attributes the SPLI's September dip and November rebound to seasonality, suggesting that September had an abnormally low amount of business days this past year.
The SBLI measures the number of new commercial loans and leases to small businesses‚ using January 2005 as a baseline 100‚ with results that are highly correlated with GDP growth or decline two to five months down the line.
And the IFA/BoeFly Franchise Lending Index, a similar metric that measures the volume and interest rates of loans issued to franchises‚ with a January 2002 baseline of 100‚ has also been creeping up slowly.
It hit a post-Economic Crisis high of 114.16 in December of 2010 and then a point within tying its record low of 80.84 in January 2011. Since then it increased just under 16% to 94.27 in October 2011, the last time the index was updated.
"I think we're slowly emerging into a more credit-friendly environment," said Mike Rozman, the co-president and chief strategy officer of BoeFly. "We're seeing growth, but it's fairly slow growth‚ not anything dramatic."
He says that the slow increase has coincided with an overall improvement in credit quality, which could mean good things for small business borrowers in 2013.
"Lenders are now more willing to step forward and do new deals when, in the worst of the credit crisis, they were hunkered down and unwilling to do the originations," he added.
Phelan said that, with business failure rates at an all-time lows in 2012‚ small businesses will be in a good position when they decide to start expanding again. "Companies are in great fiscal condition with great access to capital," he said. "It all comes down to when they want to put their foot on the gas."