The pace of lending to small businesses appears to be at a standstill. A study by PayNet, a financial research firm, shows that lending was virtually unchanged in February.

The Thomson Reuters/PayNet Small Business Lending Index came in at 98.3 in February, up from 98.2 in January. The index registered 110.5 in December as companies acquired equipment before the expiration of tax deductions at the end of 2011. PayNet's analysis shows that lending is at the level where it was during the summer.

PayNet bases its index on new commercial loans and leases granted to small businesses by the lenders in its database.

The company says its findings show that small business growth is slowing. That may lead to slower growth in the overall economy.