Banking Tightens, MCA Opportunity Rises

October 26, 2023

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Welcome back to MarketSense.  In this weekly newsletter, we give you the most important need-to-knows from the latest developments in the US economy, banking news, the Fed’s key decisions, and forecasted investment trends.

What’s Happened

Interest Rate Hikes and Financial Tightening: Over the past 18 months, the U.S. Federal Reserve has implemented aggressive interest rate hikes totaling 525 basis points, leading to the tightest financial conditions in a year. Despite this, the U.S. economy is showing strong, and pretty unexpected signs of acceleration.

Impact on Regional Banks and Small Businesses: U.S. regional banks, which play a core role in supporting the nation’s 33 million small businesses, are experiencing quite a bit of financial stress. We know this because of the significant drop in the KBW regional banking index. The growing financial strain is also reflected in higher borrowing rates for small businesses, reaching nearly 10% for short-term bank loans.

Contrasting Economic Indicators: While the tightening of financial conditions typically suggests an impending economic downturn, current broad measures of the U.S. economy like the labor market and consumer spending keep exceeding forecasts. GDP growth is also robust, contrary to expectations.

Digital rendering of a hand drawing a point on a line graph for ‘Banking Tightens, MCA Opportunity Rises’
GDP is strong but inflation remains high and banks are making borrowing more challenging for SMEs. Photo by Monstera Production

Why It Matters

Balancing Economic Growth and Inflation: The Federal Reserve’s policy of rate hikes is meant to manage inflation and maintain economic stability. However, the balancing act is complex, with the risk of these policies pushing the economy into a recession. This push-pull dynamic is important to keep a close eye on for understanding the future direction of the U.S. economy, particularly in terms of investment, borrowing, and business planning.

Local Economy and Employment: The financial health of regional banks and small businesses is directly tied to local economies and job markets. With small businesses accounting for a major portion of U.S. employment, the financial squeeze affecting these companies could have widespread repercussions on employment and economic vitality in a lot of communities.

Predicting Economic Trends: The unusual resilience of the U.S. economy even under tight financial conditions challenges traditional economic predictions. This is fun and very interesting but also a little confusing. Understanding whether these patterns represent a new economic dynamic or a temporary anomaly is obviously very important for policymakers, investors, and analysts in forecasting and preparing for potential economic shifts, including the possibility of a 2024 recession.

Digital rendering of a piggy bank with upward pointing arrow for ‘Banking Tightens, MCA Opportunity Rises’
Banks make borrowing harder, but this could signal huge growth potential in MCAs. Photo by Monstera Production

Ultimately, the tightening of financial conditions and higher borrowing rates for small businesses, as traditional banking/bank loans become more difficult to secure, suggest a growing opportunity for the Merchant Cash Advance industry.

This shift indicates that more SMEs may turn to MCAs for funding, potentially expanding the MCA market and presenting a promising landscape for investors.

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