The elevated exposure of banks to business loans with missed payments is a sign of the pressure many businesses are under, say business group representatives.
But economists are divided over how big a worry it is to the banking sector which has already put aside large provisions for borrowers who default on their loans.
New weekly data released by the Reserve Bank shows that while exposures to consumer and mortgage loans have been relatively flat the average exposure to business loans is rising.
There were 15,269 missed payments on business loans in the week ending July 24, down from the peak of 21,706 in the week ending May 8.
But the total value of the missed payments was $1.52 billion in the July 24 week compared to $1.1b for May 8. A missed payment is classified as being seven days overdue.
The average value of the business loan exposure was $99,478 in July 24 compared to $66,018 in April 24.
Leeann Watson, chief executive of the Canterbury Chamber of Commerce, said the data showed businesses were still facing a challenging period with uncertainty over what the future holds.
"There is no doubt businesses, particularly in some sectors are a way away from what they were."
While many businesses had received the wage subsidy, that money had been passed straight through to employees and hadn't helped with other ongoing costs.
"If they are not bringing in the same level of income as they were that is a concern, if they are not able to meet overhead costs. We are seeing a bit of that from some sectors."
Watson said while consumer spending was up she believed much of that was linked to pent up demand.
"I do think we are going to see a bit of a slow-down and then the wage subsidy is going to come off.
"There will be some more pain to come."
Watson said while there was still uncertainty over when the border would open it would remain difficult for some businesses to plan for the future.
Sue de Bievre, chief executive of Beany, an accountant that specialises in small business advice, said a lot of people were still getting the wage subsidy so could make the personal loan repayments and the mortgage payments.
"But business has missing revenue due to Covid so the business loans are getting dropped."
De Bievre said it was probably inevitable that business loan defaults will rise as the economy is in recession.
"It's anyone's guess how this will pan out in the next few months - but you would have to be a brave commentator to think things will just return to normal."
She said increased loan defaults were an indicator of the pressure that the economy was under.
"It is not a good sign for the small business community that we represent and we are working hard to help them manage through this crisis."
Cameron Bagrie, an independent economist, said he believed the biggest worry for banks at the moment would be commercial property and that was part of business lending.
"If I was a bank at the moment the main worry point would not be mortgages. I'd be more worried about commercial property."
He said commercial property typically took a hit when NZ went through a downturn.
"They [the banks] will be looking at that pretty carefully."
Brad Olsen, an Infometrics senior economist, said while exposure to business defaults was elevated they were not substantially higher.
"We haven't seen a sustained trend of it yet.
He said many businesses were still in a tough position and working out the best way to move through it.
"Businesses haven't come out of this yet. The economy is doing better but businesses haven't moved through the issues they were originally facing. I think the reality is now going to start setting in."
But, Olsen said, from a bank point of view they wouldn't be particularly perturbed by those numbers.
"They are not catastrophic enough to start sounding alarm bells yet. As with everything else at the minute it's a little bit of a wait and see if this trending starts to go higher."
Watson said any businesses who were worried about paying debt on time should get in touch with their bank early and get advice.