Small-business owners' confidence in the economy fell in March to its lowest level in more than a year, according to data from Discover Financial Services.
The Riverwoods, Ill., credit card company's Small Business Watch index fell to 75.7 in March, down 9.2 points from February. The index reached 71.9 in February of last year. It was pegged at 100 when it was created in 2006. The latest data was released Monday.
Fifty-three percent of small-business owners surveyed in March said they expect to see economic conditions deteriorate for their own businesses during the next six months, compared with 37% who said so in February, and 52% said they plan to decrease spending, up from 43%.
Asked to gauge the health of the overall economy, 58% of respondents said it is getting worse, up from 44% in February. Just 2% said they think the economy is improving, down from 31%.
Although Discover has seen larger month-over-month declines in business owners' confidence, the new data suggests a pattern of restraint emerging, according to Ryan Scully, Discover's business card director. "Small-business owners don't like what they're seeing, both at home and in the larger economy, and they're responding by pulling back," Scully said in a press release.