The Thomson Reuters/PayNet Small Business Lending Index climbed 18% in January compared with January 2011, reaching 100.8. The increase, the 18th consecutive double-digit gain, suggests small businesses are stronger than previously thought. However, the index was higher in December, as companies hurried to finish business before year-end. "It's like a lukewarm cup of coffee -- it's not bad, but it's not great," PayNet President William Phelan said. "We're all looking for really strong growth, and I'm not sure when we are going to get it."