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Article updated: 3/5/2013 6:22 AM

Study: Small business lending weakened in January

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By Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Small business owners are still holding back from borrowing.

A study of small business lending released Tuesday by Thomson Reuters and PayNet shows that owners took out fewer loans and leases during January. An index based on the study fell to 113 from 115 in December and is virtually unchanged from a year ago.

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The study shows that owners are still cautious although some of the political uncertainty of the last few months -- the election and negotiations in Congress over taxes -- has been resolved. Many owners are concerned about the impact on their earnings of the health care law that will take effect next year.

And many are waiting to see whether federal budget cuts that went into effect March 1 will take hold. Economists have forecast that hundreds of thousands of jobs including many at small businesses could be lost as a result of the budget cuts.

Many owners have focused on paying down their companies' debt, and they're reluctant to burden their businesses with new loans when the future looks uncertain.

The Thomson Reuters/Paynet study was compiled from data on commercial loans and leases in PayNet's database. The company provides credit ratings on small businesses.

Reports on hiring that are due out this week will give another view of small businesses and whether they're willing to take chances. They include reports on from the payroll company ADP and the Labor Department.

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