Do you need a bigger credit line from your banker? You now have some new data to help you present a convincing case. According to research from the Consumer Bankers Assn., the rate of small-business loan delinquencies declined sharply from 1998 to 1999 (chart). That's something of a surprise for Kathleen McClave, the researcher at Tillinghast-Towers Perrin who headed the study. With banks increasing their small-business loan volume by 24% over the period, she expected to find more delinquencies, not less. The low rate, McClave says, "reflects the fact that the economy is good and small business is growing."

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