Small-business owners are likely to pull back on purchases of computers, machinery and other long-term investments in 2013, according to a survey released Thursday by Wells Fargo (WFC) and Gallup.
The survey found that 34% of small-business owners canvassed last month plan to decrease their capital spending over the next 12 months, compared with 20% who expect to increase expenditures. Roughly 45% of business owners expect no change in their spending plans.
Looking back over the past year, 40% of the survey's participants say they cut spending; 18% increased investments in their businesses.
Net capital spending over the past 12 months stands roughly where it did in October 2011.
The findings suggest "small-business owners are pessimistic about their future operating environment," Dennis Jacobe, Gallup's chief economist, wrote in an analysis that accompanied the results. "The last time there was a double-digit difference in the percentage of small-business owners intending to increase vs. decrease their capital spending - the pre-recession normal - was in December 2007."
Jacobe wrote that, although a capital spending squeeze threatens the competitiveness of small firms over the long run, "many years of deferring capital investment also suggest there must be an enormous level of pent-up demand for such investments."
The survey was based on interviews with 607 respondents whose businesses have up to $20 million in annual revenue.