Area sees slight increase in small business loans

Lending to small businesses by banks based in the Philadelphia area had a slight uptick at the end of last year, after declining steadily since 2009 and despite some of the biggest local lenders still scaling back.

The aggregate value of business loans between $250,000 and $1 million held by 90 local banks climbed 1 percent during the fourth quarter, to $1.70 billion on Dec. 31 from $1.68 billion on Sept. 30, according to an Inquirer analysis of FDIC data.

The small gain in loans used by thousands of area small businesses to buy equipment and pay bills before customers pay them came after a 21 percent decline from a peak of $2.17 billion on June 30, 2009, the data show. Lack of demand caused much of that decline, but some banks were also cutting off credit to customers.

The turn in the lending trend is good news for business owners, though probably not for those that remain cash-strapped and struggling, because even the most active banks are still being choosy about picking up customers.

A second type of small business loan tracked by the FDIC, those with a balance of between $250,000 and $1 million and secured by real estate that is not a residence or a farm, remained virtually flat in the fourth quarter at $4.29 million. From their peak in June 2009, such loans are down 6 percent.

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