The numbers: The index of U.S. small-business optimism from the National Federation of Independent Business declined 2 points to 102.7 in December, the trade group said Tuesday. That was below the consensus forecast of 104.4 from Econoday.
What happened: Six of the 10 index components fell, two improved, and two were unchanged. Economic and sales expectations components both increased, but so did uncertainty. Finding qualified workers remained the top issue for firms.
Big picture: Economists watch NFIB’s capital intentions for clues about the performance of the economy. In December, that component fell 2 points to a reading of 28.
What are they saying? “The dip in capex plans is disappointing but the index is marginally higher than a year ago so it still points to a rebound in capex next spring, though the first quarter likely will be soft,”” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.
Market reaction: Stocks opened slightly lower on Tuesday as the first major earnings releases of the quarter. The S&P 500 index
slipped 8 points in early trading.