Despite an overall lack of optimism about the U.S. economy, small-business owners are growingly increasingly more confident that sales at their own firms will pick up this quarter, according to a survey released Thursday by TD Bank.

Of the 300 business owners surveyed, about three-fourths said that they expect to meet or exceed revenue projections in the first quarter of 2012. In a prior survey, 61% of business owners said they expected to meet or exceed revenue projections during the fourth quarter of 2011.

However, a little less than half of business owners were optimistic about the health of the U.S. economy. 

"The words 'cautious optimism' are what we've been hearing from our small-business customers when discussing their early 2012 outlook," Fred Graziano, head of commercial regional banking, government banking and small business for TD Bank, said in a news release. "Despite feeling somewhat uneasy about the U.S. economy, many are hopeful that they are in a position to boost their revenue stream and possibly invest in their business in the upcoming months." 

Aside from economic uncertainty, owners thought that cash flow management would be the biggest challenge in the first half of the year, with 25% citing this as a concern. This was followed by 19% listing lackluster sales, 15% citing expense management and 12% mentioning increased competition as their biggest challenges. Debt management, working longer hours, access to credit and employee layoffs were also listed as concerns.  

ORC International conducted the research during October and November and surveyed businesses with less than $5 million in annual sales in TD Bank’s footprint from Maine to Florida.

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