Canadian commercial lending at record level in Q4: PayNet

TORONTO (Reuters) - Commercial borrowing by small and medium-sized businesses in Canada jumped in the final quarter of last year to hit a record high, helped by increased appetite for loans from companies in the oil patch, a PayNet survey showed on Wednesday.

PayNet, which tracks commercial financing for millions of North American small and medium-sized businesses, said its Canadian Business Lending Index rose to 223 in the fourth quarter from a downwardly revised 209 in the previous quarter.

The fourth-quarter reading was the highest level since the index began in 2005. The index has been on the rise since late 2010.

"Right now, the credit environment is very good for Canadian small business because the demand is there for their goods and services," said Anthony Zambon, director of PayNet Canada.

Companies in the mining and oil extraction sector, as well as firms that service that industry, helped drive the index higher, along with the retail and transportation sectors, said Zambon.

On the downside, borrowing activity from construction and manufacturing companies decreased in the quarter, he said.

Moderate loan delinquencies - those that are behind in payments by 30 days or more - edged up to 1.54 percent of loans in December from 1.53 percent the month before.

Loans that were more than 90 days late were down slightly to percent 0.25 from 0.26 percent.

"The balance sheets of these small and medium-sized businesses are in very good shape, so that is a very favorable sign for the Canadian economy," said Zambon.

(Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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