INTEREST RATE IMPACT

The smaller the business, the more likely it is to be weathering the start of the Federal Reserve's interest rate increases. That's the finding of a quarterly survey by researchers at Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business and Management and Dun & Bradstreet.

The survey questioned 1,317 small and mid-sized businesses during February, two months after the Fed raised its benchmark interest rate a quarter percentage point to a range of 0.50 percent to 0.75 percent. The U.S. central bank also raised the rate, known as the federal funds rate, to a still-low range of 0.75 percent to 1 percent on March 15.

Mid-sized companies, those with revenue between $5 million and $100 million, felt the effects of the first increase. The number of these businesses that said they were able to qualify for loans fell to 55 percent from 62 percent during the fourth quarter. Twenty-seven percent said the financing environment restricted their ability to hire, up from 20 percent.

Smaller companies that took part in the survey, those with revenue under $5 million, didn't report issues related to the rate hike. Their profitability improved, with 53 percent reporting they earned money, up from 50 percent in the fourth quarter. The number of these companies reporting a loss fell to 22 percent from 26 percent.

One reason for the disparity between the smaller companies and mid-sized enterprises is that smaller ones may be holding on to the caution about borrowing they've shown since the recession. An analysis of small business borrowing in January by Thomson Reuters and PayNet showed borrowing was down 8 percent from December, when there was a burst of year-end activity.

Pepperdine and Dun & Bradstreet plan another survey during the second quarter that is expected to show the impact of the most recent increase by the Fed.

TAX WORRIES

While small business owners wait to see what kind of tax reform will emerge from Congress, they're citing taxes as the top factor that may affect their companies in the next six months. That's according to a survey of 500 businesses by Capital One taken between mid-February and early March.

The survey also found owners looking internally and finding issues that might affect them. Thirty-two percent cited managing cash flow and 30 percent named keeping up with technology as possible factors in how they'll do in the coming months.

Other factors: minimum wage increase, cited by 22 percent; access to financing, cited by 16 percent and immigration law reform, cited by 9 percent.

CREATING A GOOD REPUTATION

Online customer reviews can help build a reputation for a small business. Owners can learn how to make reviews work for them in an online seminar sponsored by SCORE, which gives free advice to small businesses. It will be held Thursday, April 13 at 1 p.m. Eastern time. You can learn more and register at http://bit.ly/2nFdHpE .

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Follow Joyce Rosenberg at www.twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg . Her work can be found here: http://bigstory.ap.org/content/joyce-m-rosenberg