U.S. small business borrowing falls, delinquencies rise

Nov 1 (Reuters) - Borrowing by small U.S. firms slipped in September, and the percentage of firms late on repaying existing loans rose to its highest in nearly four years, data released on Tuesday showed.

The Thomson Reuters/PayNet Small Business Lending Index fell to 128.9 from a downwardly revised 132.8 in August. Measured from a year earlier, it was the fourth straight monthly decline, with the index at its lowest point since January.

Companies also struggled to pay back existing debts, PayNet data showed. Loans more than 30 days past due rose in September to 1.64 percent, the sixth straight monthly increase and the highest delinquency rate since December 2012.

Movements in the index typically correspond with movements in gross domestic product growth a quarter or two ahead. Economic growth in the United States sped up in the third quarter to a 2.9 percent pace, data released last week showed, but economists warned that growth would likely slow again.

Small business borrowing is a key barometer of growth because small companies tend to do much of the hiring that drives economic gains.

PayNet collects real-time loan information such as originations and delinquencies from more than 325 leading U.S. lenders. (Reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)