Business Chat – Main Street Report Q4 Highlights

February 23, 2021 by Gary Stockton

Main Street Report Q4 Highlights – Business Chat

In this post we include a transcript from our February 11th Business Chat about the highlights in the most recent Main Street Report for Q4, 2020. We were joined by Cristian DeRitis, Deputy Chief Economist from Moody’s Analytics, and Brodie Oldham, Senior Director of Analytics for Experian.

[Gary]: Welcome to Business Chat. We’re going to be talking about small business credit today—small business credit trends for Q4 with the release of the Experian Moody’s Analytics Main Street Report. We’ve got the Deputy Chief Economist of Moody’s Analytics, Christian DeRitis with us. Good morning, Christian.

[Cristian]: Hi, good morning

[Gary]: Good morning.

[Gary]: And joining Christian is Brodie Oldham. He’s a Senior Director of Analytics here at Experian.

[Brodie]: Good morning.

[Gary]: So glad you guys could join us today. So we’re going to be taking a, look at the the highlights from the Experian Moody’s Analytics Main Street Report just released. The report had three real standout items for me – the increase in hiring during Q4 that would be normally be expected. Delinquency rates declining to 1.21% and taxes as a main concern. We’re showing that small businesses did add employees in Q4. It looks like those jobs appear to be funded primarily through credit. And businesses did keep the outstanding balances in check in Q4 with that moderate delinquency edging down to 1.21%, this time last year, it was around 1.60%. So, you know, there some good things there in the report, it seems kind of counter-intuitive, you know, when you read the headlines, but one of the things that also is starting to kind of resurge as a concern among business owners are taxes related to maybe a new administration and having things taking a different direction in terms of taxation. S. The thing that is probably on the minds of most small business owners and the nation really would be stimulus and getting some help for business owners. Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion relief package. So Christian, I wanted to get your thoughts on the package, and if you could maybe cover some of the high points on it and what your thoughts are.

[Cristian]: Yeah, sure. So they, you know, the $1.9 trillion package is an extension, if you will, of the cares act that we had last year or two, $2.4 trillion package, plus the additional stimulus that was passed at the end of December, really the purpose of those packages to my mind, it was largely preservation, right? We had households, small businesses that were really struggling under the weight of the pandemic and the associated closures. And so that assistance was really the lifeline to keep household finances in intact to some degree and to, and to preserve small businesses. Right? Last thing we wanted is to have millions of businesses failing. And then even when we get to the recovery stage, we don’t have any, any of that, uh, that foundation to build off of the next, stimulus here. The 1.9 trillion that’s been proposed, I think this package or some version of it is really intended to be stimulative to go to the next level where we have the vaccines kicking in the economy is recovering. You have consumers of being a little bit more positive and hopeful of the future here. And this package to me, is really designed to jumpstart some of the activity to ensure that we build some momentum and keep going in particular for small businesses. We have extension of the PPP program. That’s the Paycheck Protection Program, this time around monies allocated are designed to be much more focused on the truly smallest businesses, many of which have been struggling and have few other options when it comes to credit. And so, I view that certainly as a positive as we, again, look forward to the future here, in terms of consumers coming back in leisure hospitality spending, coming back as people start to feel more comfortable after the vaccination efforts take hold. And so this, I, I do believe that this stimulus is certainly beneficial to ensure that we, we make it to that a more positive growth environment towards the end of the year, say the third or fourth quarter, I don’t know that the full $1.9 trillion package will actually be passed. There’s certainly a lot of debate around it, but I think some version of it that perhaps a scale-down package, maybe something closer to a trillion dollars will be passing that that certainly will be helpful for households and small businesses alike.

[Gary]: Very good. Alright. Turning to you Brodie. One of the things that we saw again in the report would be credit and use of credit and businesses had kind of their appetite for credit in the Q4 timeframe had kind of declined. Did you have a comment on that?

[Brodie]: I do, and, you know, it is a trend that we’ve been seeing through the summer. That pull back when we look at small businesses, just prior to the pandemic, what we saw them do is open up credit, looking for some longer term credit facilities that they could, uh, reach into and create some cushion for them as they looked forward and saw the pandemic growing, knowing that we would be entering some type of recessionary period. They knew that lenders would tighten up criteria as they went forward. And lenders did turn on their recessionary underwriting programs toward the beginning of last summer. And that really created a gap there for funding for small businesses and for their survival. Like Christian spoke to about stimulus, came in and provided some of that low cost alternative funding that small businesses might have gotten otherwise from banks or credit unions Fintechs across the marketplace. And so when we looked at that stimulus coming out, it really added or exacerbated that pull back that we saw of small businesses reaching out for this type of credit. Now we had the first round of stimulus that went really to all businesses, across the spectrum. When we look at the second poll, that’s going to come out the second round of stimulus, that’ll be part of the market what we’re going to see is, and we’re seeing already, a large number of those that were in the first round of PPP loans are entering the second round up to 93%. We’ve seen eighties, seventies across some of our different lenders. You know, at the second round is going to require some additional look at how a business’s performance was through the third and fourth quarter if they have losses and, you know, those that picked it up in the first round, not all really needed it. And they took it from the perspective of we’re going to take in the money. We’re going to pay down some of our loans. We’re going to,  create some additional utilization space for us. And we saw some of that across the trends. And we’ll talk about some of that in the upcoming Quarterly Business Credit Review. But what we’re going to see as we go forward, is that, you know, as the pandemic lightens a bit, we see the vaccines take hold. We’re going to see that some of the collections and foreclosure activity is going to slow a bit. We’re going to see, you know, we’re going to see those moratoriums come to an end. What that’s going to create is a need for,  some additional credit. And some of that’s going to be beyond what will be provided in the stimulus packages. And so, as we go forward, as the market opens up, we see more foot traffic, businesses are going to go from that survival feel, into more of a future investment type of a growth feel. And in that they’re going to be looking for banks and credit unions and fintechs and across the marketplace to again, look for opportunities to pick up some additional funding as we go forward.

[Gary]: Very good. So gentlemen, you know, we’re in Q1 right now, we should be seeing data for that coming in the early part of April, any thoughts on how this is going to break in terms of credit performance, business performance, if I guess it all depends on stimulus right now, and we’ve got what’s happening in Texas and other things that are complicating things, any thoughts to, to close with?

[Cristian]: Yeah. So from my perspective, I think it’s still going to be a Rocky few months here. Assuming that stimulus does kick in and we continued to provide support to households and small businesses, I would expect the credit performance actually is going to remain fairly strong in the short term. And it’s really, once we move beyond and remove those supports in the third, fourth quarter, we’re going to have some counteracting forces, we’ll have a stronger economy, so growth and labor market’s coming back. Revenues are rising at a, at businesses. On the other hand, those supports are going away. There’s a threat of somewhat higher interest rates. And so that I do expect to see a wave of bankruptcies and some additional delinquencies rising. But I don’t, I don’t expect that we’re going to see a, a substantial shock. I think it’s some more return to normality, the delinquencies and default rates are perhaps artificially suppressed for now. And they’ll just gradually rise back to more normal level, but I don’t know, Brodie, maybe you have a different opinion?

[Brodie]: No, I think you’re right on Christian. I think what we’ll also see is you know, more new businesses entering the market. We saw a lot of closures that came toward the end of last year. We’re going to see more reopenings, but those new businesses that are opening are going to have a hard time building credit as we come forward. They’re not going to have that credit history that some of these that closed did. We’ll see them start to build that credit history. We’re going to see lenders some use different tools to differentiate credit risk for some of these new businesses and remarket. So we’ll see originations begin to rise. We’ll see some of that underwriting criteria loosen even continue to loosen into the first and second quarter. So it’s going to give more opportunity for small businesses. Certainly as we get into the summertime, as, you know, foot traffic is going to increase, we’re really going to be in a better place as a country. So I think we’re going to really have an opportunity for businesses again, to go from that survival mode into what’s my future, going to look like how do I invest to grow from here?

[Gary]: Very good. Well, we’ll be getting together again on March 16th. We’re going to be doing more of a deep dive on the Experian Moody’s Analytics Main Street Report, and that’ll be the report for the Q4, Derek Grunfelder-McCrank is going to be joining us. That’s Christian’s colleague. And so I will see you gentlemen again on the 16th. And folks, if you would like to attend a webinar, there’s a link here in this slide and also I will leave a link in the description for this video and a link to the report. If you haven’t got your copy, please sign up. We’d love to get that report out there, have more people read it. Thanks very much for coming to Business Chat today. Thank you.

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The latest insight, tips, and trends on all things related to commercial risk by the team at Experian Business Information Services. Please follow us on social media.


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