September 14, 2010
For the better part of two years, there's been a constant grumble that big banks like Citigroup (NYSE: C ) and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) are holding credit back from companies, particularly small businesses, and that's why the economy can't get moving.
This picture, from the National Federation of Independent Business' "Small Business Trends" report, might put that grumble to rest:
The ability to obtain credit is actually the least of small businesses' worries these days. Literally. According to this data, interest rates and finance is less a challenge than labor quality, which is incredible given the available pool of the eager unemployed.
The NFIB's report goes on: "Overall, 91 percent of the owners reported all their credit needs met or they did not want to borrow, unchanged from July. Only four percent cited financing as their top business problem."
What's fascinating about this survey is that it included only small businesses. It's well-known that large corporations have almost dangerously easy access to credit these days. Recently, Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ ) and IBM (NYSE: IBM ) both priced bond offerings at interest rates that basically round to zero, showing how easy it is to borrow. Apparently, small businesses are just as taken care of.
Banks aren't killing the economy. The problem is that businesses don't seem to want to borrow. As Warren Buffett said yesterday, "I know Wells Fargo, they would love to have $50 billion more of loans now. Go in and talk to the banker."