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Small-Business Optimism Grows In August

U.S. small-business confidence rose slightly last month, according to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). The NFIB’s Small Business Optimism Index, which surveyed the mood of 656 companies, grew by half a point in August – to 95.9. “Small-business owners did not seem to be very concerned about the antics of the stock market or China’s currency devaluation,” said Bill Dunkelberg, chief economist for NFIB. “Most small-business owners have their capital primarily invested in their own firm, not other people’s firms.”

Half of the index’s 10 components increased in August. Three dropped, and the remaining two were unchanged. The index pointed to improvements in the labor market, with owners indicating that they had added a net 0.13 workers per firm in recent months, better than July’s 0.05 figure. Small-business owners were slightly optimistic about sales, but said it wasn’t a good time to expand. They showed pessimism regarding business conditions over the next six months, whereas feelings toward capital and inventory investment remained flat.

Earnings trends posted a 4-point gain, though far more owners were still reporting lower profits quarter-to-quarter than higher. Owners planned to increase wages a seasonally adjusted net 13% in the coming months, down 2 points from the last index. Owners reported low inflation, with a seasonally adjusted net 15% planning price hikes, down 2 points from the previous index.

With August’s overall limited growth, according to Dunkelberg, there’s no reason to expect dramatic gains in the second half of 2015. “The small-business sector will continue plodding forward, with little risk of recession, but little risk of a boom as well,” he said.