NEW YORK (AP) -- Small businesses took out more loans and leases during April, the first increase in borrowing this year, according to an index released Wednesday.
The Thomson Reuters/PayNet Small Business Lending Index rose to 110.5 from the revised March level of 99. That brought borrowing levels back to where they were at the start of 2013.
The index had fallen steadily since December. Business owners have held back from making major investments or purchases, partly because they wanted to see the impact of federal budget cuts that took effect March 1. They also are concerned about the slowness of the economic recovery and the impact that the health care law will have when it takes full effect Jan. 1.
Those concerns make it difficult to predict whether April's increase in borrowing is the start of a positive trend. Other surveys have shown that owners are reluctant to take on debt. Many companies have been focused on paying their debts down after the recession
The index is compiled from data on commercial loans and leases in PayNet's database. The company provides credit ratings on small businesses.
A separate Thomson Reuters/PayNet index that measures small business delinquency rates fell 0.01 percentage point to 1.26 percent _ a sign that more companies are paying their bills on time.