The ongoing credit crisis drove down small-business owners' confidence in the economy this month, according to Discover Financial Services.

The Riverwoods, Ill., credit company reported Monday that its September Small Business Watch index fell 12.3 points from August, to 74.6. The index was pegged at 100 when it was introduced in 2006.

Fifty-one percent of small-business owners surveyed by Discover said economic conditions for their companies are getting worse, compared with 44% who said that last month, and 73% said the overall economic conditions are declining, versus 60% last month.

Only 7% of respondents said the economy is improving — the lowest figure ever.

Fifty-seven percent of small-business owners rated the economy as poor, 32% said it is fair, and 10% said it is in good condition. Only 1% rated it as excellent.

"This month's drop isn't surprising given the constant stream of uninspiring news about the housing and lending markets, as well as the turmoil on Wall Street," Ryan Scully, the director of Discover's business credit card operations, said in a press release.

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