Small businesses borrowed less as shutdown neared

ANOTHER STEP BACK: Small businesses scaled back their borrowing in September as Congress headed toward the deadlock that partially shut the government for 16 days. The Thomson Reuters/PayNet Small Business Lending Index fell to 109.7 from 116.6 in August. The index has fluctuated for much of this year.

THE BIGGER PICTURE: The drop shows that small business owners remain cautious because they're uncertain about the economy and the fallout from lawmakers' disagreements. But PayNet, which compiles the index from lending data in its database, notes that borrowing is up 16 percent from a year earlier. The company provides credit ratings on small businesses.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING: The PayNet report is in line with surveys by small business advocacy groups and researchers at Pepperdine University. They all show that small businesses are conservative about borrowing and expanding their companies. PayNet did report growth in borrowing in the energy and housing industries.

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