As investors sift through Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s latest comments for clues about when interest rates might climb, one group is more muted about a potential rate hike: Main Street businesses.
Historically low rates haven’t sent small business owners rushing to scoop up capital. Small business experts say there’s a disconnect between Main Street and Fed policy, as business activity and sales rather than interest rates generally drive borrowing.
About 64 percent of small business owners say a rate hike would not pressure them to act quickly in securing loans for their business, according to new data compiled for CNBC by Manta, an industry researcher focused on small businesses. The research also found 39 percent of about 1,000 business owners polled said a rate hike would not affect business at all.
Smaller employers have “apathy” when it comes to interest rates, said Manta CEO John Swanciger. “They don’t feel loans will change the outlook they have for their business, for the most part,” he said.
Separate research shows access to credit is a lower priority among entrepreneurs.
About 65 percent of small businesses surveyed say they have enough cash flow, and 33 percent cite sufficient funding, according to Dun and Bradstreet Credibility’s Q1 2015 Pepperdine Private Capital Index. Plus over the past 12 quarters, demand for capital has fallen 12 percent, according to the index.
Data from the National Federation of Independent Business show available credit is a lower priority among busy entrepreneurs. Only 3 percent of those surveyed said financing was their top business problem. The Federal Reserve “did little to contribute to better cash flows for most of America’s firms,” said federation Chief Economist William Dunkelberg. “The fact that the Fed doesn’t raise rates signals that they don’t expect the economy to improve.”
Earlier Wednesday, Yellen commented on generally high equity valuations in a joint appearance with International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde at a conference sponsored by the Institute for New Economic Thinking. Yellen, however, did not specifically comment on interest rates.
And while some Main Street watchers say an aggressive rate move by the Fed may prompt a knee jerk reaction from Main Street, in the end sales and overall business outlook matter much more to entrepreneurs.
“An improvement in outlook for sales and profitability is what will prompt borrowing,” said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist from PNC Bank’s Financial Services Group.