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    Survey: Small Business Owners' Confidence at Historic Low

    Nearly a quarter of their businesses will raise prices to increase cash flow.

    NEW YORK -- Consumers aren't the only ones with low confidence about the economy. A semi-annual survey by the OPEN from American Express Small Business Monitor found that small business optimism is at its lowest point in the survey's six-year history.

    The survey -- based on a nationally representative sample of 627 small business owners/managers of companies with fewer than 100 employees -- also found that of all small business owners, those in the retail sector had the most negative outlook, with 46 percent expecting the economic climate to negatively affect their businesses -- as compared to an overall 37 percent.

    In addition, 22 percent of small businesses reported in the survey they will raise prices to improve cash flow, compared to the fall 2007 survey that said 12 percent would increase prices. Also, a third responded that they would raise prices in response to higher gas and energy costs.

    Other findings of retail business owners include:

    -- 63 percent of retail business owners say rising energy and gas costs have had a significant impact on their business, compared to 53 percent of all small business owners;
    -- 54 percent of retail business owners believe the downturn in the housing market has had a negative effect on their business, compared to 43 percent of all small business owners; and
    -- 76 percent of retail business owners say the U.S. tax system stands in the way of small business growth, compared to 70 percent of small business owners overall.

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