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Small-business borrowing rises in November

By Chris Reese

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Borrowing by small U.S. businesses rose marginally in November, indicating they were essentially on hold in terms of growing their enterprises in the face of economic and government fiscal uncertainty, a report on Wednesday showed.

The Thomson Reuters/PayNet Small Business Lending Index, which measures the overall volume of financing to small U.S. companies, rose to 108.3 from a downwardly revised 107 in October, PayNet said.

PayNet had initially reported the October figure as 107.5.

Borrowing was up 3 percent in November from a year earlier.

PayNet founder Bill Phelan, located in Chicago, said the small rise in the monthly index and the 3 percent year-on-year gain indicated small businesses are essentially on hold when it comes to borrowing and growing their businesses.

"Small businesses are on hold until they get some better stability from policymakers and greater clarity on the direction of the economy," he said.

"Small businesses were waiting to see what is happening with Washington in November, they were waiting for more consumer activity to emerge, really watching the front door for new sales to emerge and it doesn't look like any major new influx of sales came in -- they have really been on hold," Phelan said.

Small businesses are often responsible for the bulk of new job creation after recessions. The recent recession ended in 2009, but sluggish growth has meant weak job growth, and unemployment in November registered 7.7 percent, well above the 5.5 percent to 6 percent that many economists view as normal.

PayNet's lending index typically correlates to economic growth one or two quarters in the future.

Separate PayNet data showed financial stress at near-record-low levels. Accounts overdue by 30 days rose slightly to 1.22 percent of the total from 1.21 percent the previous month. Phelan said a "normal" rate of delinquency is 1.5 percent to 1.6 percent.

Longer-term delinquency rates eased. Accounts behind 180 days or more, which are considered in default and unlikely to be paid, dipped to 0.27 percent from 0.29 percent.

Accounts behind 90 days or more, or in severe delinquency, were unchanged at 0.26 percent.

PayNet collects real-time loan information, such as originations and delinquencies, from more than 250 leading U.S. lenders.

(Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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