NFIB Small Business Optimism – August 2016

The August NFIB Small Business Optimism report was released today, September 13, 2016. The headline of the Small Business Economic Trends report is “Political Climate As Negative Factor Hits Record High In Monthly NFIB Index Of Small Business Optimism.”

The Index of Small Business Optimism increased .2 points in August to 94.4.

Here are some excerpts from that I find particularly notable (but don’t necessarily agree with):

At 94.4, the Index remains well below the 42-year average of 98. Five of the 10 Index components posted a gain, four declined, and one remained unchanged. The outlook for business conditions in the next six months had the most dramatic change, dropping seven points. Setting an all-time high for the survey, 39 percent of business owners cited the political climate as a reason not to expand.  Uncertainty about the economy and government policy also hit record highs among small business owners.


Inventory and Sales

The net percent of all owners (seasonally adjusted) reporting higher nominal sales in the past 3 months compared to the prior 3 months fell 1 percentage point to a net negative 9 percent. Eleven percent cited weak sales as their top business problem, down 1 point from July. Seasonally adjusted, the net percent of owners expecting higher real sales volumes fell 2 points to a net negative 1 percent of owners, a weak showing.

The net percent of owners reporting inventory gains increased 5 points to a net negative 0 percent (seasonally adjusted), restoring some balance after a major reduction in the first half of the year. The net percent of owners viewing current inventory stocks as “too low” improved 2 points to a net negative 2 percent. The net percent of owners planning to add to inventory increased 1 point to a net 1 percent, not a strong picture, but now positive and a contribution to growth if owners follow through as planned.


Capital Spending

Fifty-seven percent reported capital outlays, down 2 points from July. The percentage of owners making an outlay peaked in July 2015 at 61 percent, revisiting that percentage in January but has faded since. The percent of owners planning capital outlays in the next 3 to 6 months rose 3 points to 28 percent. This is 1 point better than the recovery high reading reached in October 2014, but historically weak. The small business sector remains in “maintenance mode”. Seasonally adjusted, the net percent expecting better business conditions deteriorated 7 percentage points to a net negative 12 percent. Clearly, expectations for the economy are not conducive to a meaningful improvement in business investment as prospects for profits are poor.

Further details regarding small business conditions can be seen in the full August 2016 NFIB Small Business Economic Trends (pdf) report.


The Special Note summarizes my overall thoughts about our economic situation

SPX at 2127.02 as this post is written