Discover Financial Services said its survey of small-business owners' economic confidence improved slightly in December.

Discover's Small Business Watch index rose to 77 in December from 76.5 the previous month. The number of business owners who thought the economy was getting worse fell 4 percentage points, to 49%, while those who thought it had stabilized rose 8 points, to 24%.

As for their own businesses, more owners said they expected improvement in the next six months than those surveyed a month earlier, but more than half still expected conditions to worsen.

A majority also said they planned to spend less on development activities. Eighteen percent said they would do more such spending.

The Discover Small Business Watch gauges the economic confidence of 750 U.S. business owners with fewer than five employees. It is conducted by Rasmussen Reports LLC.

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