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US small-business uncertainty gauge stays close to record

Wednesday, October 12, 2016 - 22:20
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Less than a month before the presidential election, anxiety is running high among owners of American small businesses.

[WASHINGTON] Less than a month before the presidential election, anxiety is running high among owners of American small businesses.

Uncertainty about where the economy is headed, if it's a good time to invest and whether companies expect to expand held close to a four-decade high in September, according to a new monthly survey by the National Federation of Independent Business. The group's Uncertainty Index eased to 86 last month from 87 in August, which was the highest in 42 years of record-keeping, according to Bill Dunkelberg, NFIB's chief economist.

About 25 per cent of owners said a lack of clarity about economic conditions and government legislation was a "critical" problem for their business operations, according to the gauge that draws from the NFIB's monthly Small Business Economic Trends Report.

"If you can't even say if you think things will be better or worse, you don't do anything," said Mr Dunkelberg. "You can't fire or hire people, allocate or reduce inventory. You just tread water and that's a recipe for muddling-along growth."

Some 57 per cent of respondents said the current environment was a bad time to expand their businesses substantially. While the majority blamed a weak economy and limited sales, about 35 per cent indicated the political climate was a reason for not expanding.

BLOOMBERG

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