(Reuters) – U.S. small businesses boosted borrowing in March, driven by the transportation, accommodation and food services industries, according to data released on Tuesday.
The Thomson Reuters/PayNet Small Business Lending Index rose to 129.6 from a February reading of 127.1.
From a year earlier, the index was up 12 percent, suggesting small businesses contributed to what little growth there was in the U.S. economy’s first quarter, according to PayNet founder Bill Phelan.
Even so, he said, “small business is still stuck in low gear.” Companies in agriculture and mining led industries cutting borrowing during the month.
The index has historically tracked ahead of U.S. gross domestic product growth by two to five months.
Loan delinquencies ticked down to 1.54 percent, separate PayNet data showed in a sign that despite the overall increase in borrowing, businesses are for the most part repaying what they owe.
PayNet collects real-time loan information such as originations and delinquencies from more than 250 leading U.S. lenders.
(Reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by Andre Grenon and Jeffrey Benkoe)