Survey: Small Businesses’ Appetite For Financing Weakens

NEW YORK (AP) — Small businesses' appetite for financing has weakened in the second half of the year, along with their revenue outlook.

         That's the finding of a survey of small companies released Wednesday by researchers at Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business and Management and Dun & Bradstreet Corp. An index compiled from the survey that measures companies' demand for capital has fallen more than 10 percent in the third quarter, registering at 36.2 versus 40.4 in the second quarter. A separate index that tracks companies' access to capital fell 0.2 percent to 33 from 33.1.

         The survey, which questioned 1,176 businesses, is in line with other recent indicators of slowing activity at small businesses. The payroll provider ADP reported earlier this month that its small business customers cut jobs during September. While that was due in part to the hurricanes Harvey and Irma, companies have generally slowed their hiring in the second half of the year.

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         The companies questioned by Pepperdine and Dun & Bradstreet said they expect slower annual revenue growth. Owners with revenues of less than $5 million forecast a 9.3 percent gain, weaker than 10.6 percent expectations in both the first and second quarters.

         Their outlook for the credit market is mixed, with 43 percent expecting it to be easy to get loans in the coming months, and 42 percent expecting it to be difficult. As a point of comparison, five years ago, when the credit markets and companies were still recovering after the financial crisis and the recession, 76 percent of owners said it was hard to get loans.

         Bank loans are expected to be the most sought-after forms of financing in the coming months, with three-quarters of owners saying they'll be making applications. Nearly half said that if they fail to raise financing in the next six months, that would result in slower growth for their companies. Nearly a quarter said they'd need to lay off workers.

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         Nearly half the companies said they tried to get a bank loan in the previous three months. Of those businesses, 44 percent said they were successful, an increase from nearly 34 percent in the second quarter.

         One of the easiest forms of financing to obtain was from friends and family. Nearly three-quarters of the companies that sought loans or investments from the people closest to them succeeded. Personal credit cards were also easy, with nearly 80 percent of the owners having been able to obtain cards.

         The survey, conducted during July and August, questioned businesses from Dun & Bradstreet's database. The company compiles financial information and issues credit reports on businesses of all sizes.

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         – by AP Reporter Joyce M. Rosenberg


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