April 30, 2019 / 4:52 PM / in 20 days

Most U.S. small business preparing for a recession: Bank of America survey

(Reuters) - Small business owners around the country are preparing for a recession, according to a new survey by Bank of America Corp.

More than two-thirds of business owners surveyed by the bank said they had taken steps to prepare for an economic downturn, including setting cash aside or planning to reduce expenses.

Of the 69 percent of owners who had started preparing for a recession, only 19 percent had opened a line of credit, a figure that Bank of America’s head of small business Sharon Miller said was too low.

“When you need a line of credit, you often can’t get one,” she said in an interview. “Business owners should be thinking about that now.”

There was less optimism about the U.S. economy than last year, the survey showed. Forty-eight percent of business owners felt the national economy would improve over the next year, down from 55 percent last fall. Concerns about healthcare costs and the impact of trade wars contributed to declining sentiment.

Although the bank said it is important for businesses to be ready for a potential downturn, top executives pointed to growth in consumer spending and low unemployment to show the economy is still in good shape.

“We continue to see a good, strong solid U.S. economy,” said Chief Executive Brian Moynihan on a conference call earlier this month.

The Charlotte-based bank is looking to grow its unit that caters to businesses with fewer than 100 employees and less than $5 million in revenue by putting small business specialists in each of Bank of America’s financial centers, Miller told Reuters.

Bank of America currently employs about 2,300 business specialists and has about 4,300 branches.

Earlier this month, the second-largest bank by assets announced plans to expand its branch and ATM network to cover more than 90 percent of the U.S. population by 2021.

Reporting by Imani Moise; editing by Bernadette Baum

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