Canadian small business lending little changed in March: PayNet

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Lending to small Canadian businesses was little changed in March compared to the month before, though borrowing by medium-sized companies jumped as they benefited from a recovery in the energy sector, data showed on Tuesday.

The PayNet Small Business Lending index inched up to 118.0 in March from 117.9 in February, while the index for medium businesses rose to 243.1 from 232.6.

PayNet President Bill Phelan said he was surprised by the rate of acceleration for medium-sized firms, with lending activity up 12 percent compared to the year before.

As larger companies invest in energy projects in the western part of the country, small companies should eventually benefit from that, Phelan said.

In Alberta, home to the country’s vast oil sands, lending activity picked up to 168.6 from 168.0.

However, manufacturing continued to be a weak spot, declining to 59.0 from 62.1. Some economists had expected the sector would help bolster the economy as companies benefited from the lower Canadian dollar and oil prices.

“We’re not going to see manufacturing taking the leadership position to transform the economy into a more manufacturing-based and consumer-based economy,” Phelan said.

The number of small businesses that were 30 days or more behind on their loans edged down at 1.10 percent from 1.11 percent, while those that were 90 days or more late held steady at 0.35 percent for the third consecutive month.

Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Tom Brown