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US small-business borrowing fell in November: PayNet

[SAN FRANCISCO] US small businesses reduced borrowing in November, sending the Thomson Reuters/PayNet Small Business Lending Index to its lowest level in eight months, according to data released on Tuesday.

The reading of 116 compares to a downwardly revised October reading of 129.7. The index was set at 100 at its January 2005 launch, and peaked two years later at 131.7 before plummeting to about half that level around the time of the Great Recession.

Still, the index was up 1 percent from a year earlier. "We don't see this as a sea change or an inflection point,"PayNet founder Bill Phelan said, noting that the index rose by double digits for most of the year.

"This is a pause more than anything and it's probably pretty healthy." Loan delinquencies held steady at 1.56 per cent, separate PayNet data showed, a sign that despite an overall increase in borrowing in 2014, businesses are for the most part repaying what they owe.

The US economy in the third quarter of 2014 registered its fastest growth in more than a decade, as the Federal Reserve finally ended two years of bond-buying stimulus and began to lay the groundwork for increasing interest rates this year.

Subdued inflation and lingering concerns over the recovery's staying power mean the central bank is likely to keep interest rates near zero for at least another several months, if not longer.

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