Optimism builds as primary concerns diminish
Small business owners’ macroeconomic outlook may be the most optimistic it has been since prior to the 2008 economic crisis. Confidence in a stronger economy is at an all-time high (29 percent as of March 2012 compared with the previous high of 28 percent in December 2009). While the U.S. recovering from the recession is still the top concern, it is down significantly from last quarter. Additionally, concern over consumer confidence is at its lowest level since 2Q08.

Balance sheets looking up as confidence increases
Small business owners’ attitudes about matters related to their balance sheets also appear to be more hopeful. Confidence in near-term revenue increases is higher than the past three quarters. Confidence in greater profits is higher than it has been since 2Q08 with about two-thirds of respondents expecting double-digit growth. Even in terms of inventory levels, confidence that they will increase is the highest it has been since we began measuring this data point in 1Q10.

Energy prices remain among top concerns
As may be expected with fuel prices on the rise, confidence that energy spending will increase jumped dramatically since last quarter. It appears small business owners do not see an end to this trend either. Concern over continued increases in energy spending is the highest it has been since 2Q08.

Small business owners citing more support from banks
Small business owners seem to be feeling better about their relationships with their financial institutions. In fact, when asked if their banks have been supportive over the past six months, there were more "positive" responses than there have been since 2Q09. Plus, in the history of this survey, the lowest number of small business owners reported they do not believe their bank is interested in their success.