ECONOMY

Bad checks shoot up 143 percent

The value of checks that bounced in the first month of the year jumped 143 percent year-on-year, reflecting Greece’s worsening economic conditions and the tighter lending market. Data from Tiresias, a nonprofit group jointly owned by Greek banks that provides credit profiles and other payment information, showed that bounced checks last month hit the 226.5-million-euro mark. The checks – mostly used among wholesale and retail traders for payment – that were not honored numbered 21,360. Tighter lending practices by banks have put the squeeze on small and medium-sized businesses that have been left scrambling for means to finance their needs. Greece’s credit expansion, which helped support the country’s strong economic growth in recent years, decelerated sharply in December. According to the Bank of Greece, lending to businesses and households slowed in December to an annual pace of 16.4 percent from 18.2 percent in the previous month. The figure stood at 21.5 percent in December last year.