Small business owners are looking more bleakly at their companies, according to a survey by Wells Fargo & Co. The bank's quarterly index of owner optimism, based on a survey taken in mid-November, fell to 54 from 59 in August, the third straight quarter that the index has fallen. It began the year at 71.
The number of owners reporting higher revenue during the past year fell 10 percentage points to 39 percent, compared with the summer survey. Forty-seven percent expect revenues to increase in the next 12 months, down from 55 percent at the start of 2015.
The uneven economy has made it difficult for small businesses to increase their sales, says Mark Vitner, Wells Fargo's senior economist.
EX-IM BANK BACK IN BUSINESS
The Export-Import Bank, a federal agency that makes and guarantee loans so U.S. companies can export their goods, is back in the lending business.
The bank's ability to make new loans had been on hold since June 30 because of a disagreement in Congress over whether the bank is necessary. Some lawmakers contended it serves mostly large companies that don't need help. Small business advocacy groups had called for the bank to get a new charter so it could help smaller companies sell more goods overseas.
A bill to revive the bank and keep it running through 2019 was part of highway legislation Congress passed last week. President Barack Obama signed the bill on Friday, opening the way for new loans.
You can learn more about the Ex-Im bank at www.exim.gov
SUPERSTORM SANDY LOANS
Small businesses hurt by Superstorm Sandy have until Dec. 1, 2016, to apply for low-interest disaster loans from the government. The Small Business Administration reopened the application period last week after Congress last month approved an extension of the disaster loan program for companies that were unable to get help following the 2012 storm.
You can learn more about the loans and apply at the SBA website, www.sba.gov
Small businesses are showing more signs of caution, scaling back their borrowing, according to Thomson Reuters and PayNet. The two companies' index of small business lending fell 5 percent in October to 131.7 from September's downwardly revised 137.9. The decline left the index unchanged from a year earlier.
The drop in borrowing came as small business hiring was slowing from robust levels earlier this year.
Business owners may be responding to the economy, which has had an uneven performance this year. But they've also consistently said in surveys they won't borrow or hire unless their revenue growth justifies taking on risk.
Follow Joyce Rosenberg at www.twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg