A new report warns: Small firms are struggling for more working capital

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

The stock market’s up. Unemployment is low. The economy is growing. But are things as rosy as they sound? Maybe not so much, warns a new index published by Dun & Bradstreet.

As reported by American Trucker, D&B’s quarterly Private Capital Access Index, prepared by the credit data research firm in conjunction with Pepperdine University, has revealed some eye-raising concerns from the second quarter.

Among them: About two-thirds of the firms surveyed said that working capital was their main reason for seeking financing (as opposed to longer term investments), an all-time high since the survey started in 2012 and up more than 22 percent since the second quarter of last year. Even more troubling is that almost a quarter of the firms reported a slow-down in their accounts receivable collections over the past three months.

This isn’t good news. A greater need for working capital is oftentimes considered a sign of potential trouble because profitable companies are usually able to fund most of their working capital needs (expenses, inventory purchases) from operations, with maybe a little help from the bank. Companies that seek longer term financing are generally investing in plant, property and equipment for future growth.

Almost one-in-five small businesses believe that an interest rate hike will impede their ability to grow and limit their access to capital. The Fed is considering additional increases this year.

Unfortunately, it’s women and minority owned businesses that are feeling the most pain. Seventy-two percent of women-owned and 80 percent of minority-owned firms cite working capital challenges as the lead reason for seeking capital during the second quarter this year.

The good news is that access to capital has improved and small companies actually fared a little better than their mid-sized counterparts when it came time to get financing.

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