Wells Fargo says small business optimism ticks up slightly

Small business owners showed a modest uptick in optimism in a survey released Thursday by Wells Fargo & Co.

The bank’s Small Business Index, which measures owners’ sentiment, rose 4 points to 68 from 64 in the previous survey released during the second quarter. The index was 67 at the beginning of this year. The latest survey questioned 603 owners in early July.

Owners had a slightly more upbeat assessment of their companies’ current financial situation as well as their expectations for how business will be a year from now. However, they also had a slightly more pessimistic view of what their revenue will look like over the next year. And 21 per cent of the owners said they expected their number of jobs at their companies to increase over the next year, a tad lower than the 23 per cent who forecast an increase in jobs in the second-quarter survey.

The results are in line with other recent surveys and reports that show owners, while not ebullient, are also not feeling as pessimistic as they did several years ago. The slow growth in the economy has tempered their expectations and plans; the Commerce Department last week said the economy grew at an annual rate of 1.1 per cent in the second quarter following a 0.8 per cent gain in the first three months of the year.

Uncertainty about the election also is keeping a lid on owners’ optimism. Nearly three-quarters of the owners in the Wells Fargo survey said the outcome of the election would affect their companies, little changed from the second-quarter survey. More than 60 per cent said the candidates aren’t discussing the issues most important to them as business owners.