In this file:
· Small-Business Owner Optimism Strong Amid Economic Concerns
· Farmer Sentiment on Trade and the Overall Ag Economy Improves as Fall Harvest Gets Underway
Small-Business Owner Optimism Strong Amid Economic Concerns
o Small-business owners remain optimistic about financial outlook
o One-third of small-business owners anticipate potential recession
o 69% say presidential candidates not focused on small-business issues
By Frank Newport and Coleen McMurray, GALLUP
Nov 6 2019
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Small-business owners' optimism continues to edge up in 2019. In the latest quarterly Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index survey, conducted Sept. 30-Oct. 4, the overall index is at +142, up from +136 in July and +129 in April. The index is a measure of owners' present and future optimism -- both of which saw modest upticks this quarter.
The Small Business Index measures small-business owners' attitudes about a wide variety of factors affecting their business. The rise in the overall score this quarter is driven by modest improvements across most of the index items, rather than a significant improvement on any single dimension.
Additionally, when owners are asked a broad question about their financial outlook "for your business" over the next year, 77% say they are more optimistic than pessimistic -- similar to the 79% recorded last quarter and up modestly from 70% in Quarter 2.
Although small-business owners remain very optimistic, their confidence in the overall economy, while still strong, has shown some signs of erosion. Sixty-three percent say the current state of the U.S. economy is excellent or good. This is down somewhat from 70% in July's Quarter 3 poll but on par with Quarter 2, when 63% rated the economy as excellent or good.
Of note this quarter is a new question asking owners about the possibility of a recession in the year ahead. Currently, one-third of small-business owners (33%) anticipate an economic downturn or recession in the next 12 months, while another 34% say it is somewhat likely and 27% say it's not very likely.
Owners clearly understand that their business success is tied to a strong U.S. economy -- with a third (34%) saying the overall economic environment in the U.S. affects their business a great deal and 50% saying it affects them some.
At the same time, a significant majority of small-business owners (75%) feel they have the right strategy to handle future changes in economic conditions. And 86% report that they are either very prepared (24%) or somewhat prepared (62%) to handle "an economic downturn that might occur over the next several years."
2020 Presidential Campaign
Although Election Day 2020 was still over a year away at the time of this survey, campaigning -- particularly the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination -- has been underway for many months. Thus far in the campaign, small-business owners believe that the presidential candidates are not paying enough attention to small-business needs, with 69% saying that the candidates are not discussing the issues most important to them as small-business owners. And 51% say that the outcome of the presidential election will have a major impact on their business.
In an open-ended question, small-business owners were asked to name the most important issue on which they would like the presidential candidates to focus during the campaign. Owners named a variety of issues, but the three most frequently mentioned were taxes/tax relief, healthcare/insurance and the overall economy. Other issues named by 5% or more of small-business owners included trade tariffs, general issues related to small businesses, and the need for "less socialism and government rhetoric."
When asked specifically to rate the importance of a number of issues that the winner of the 2020 presidential election should address when they take office, small-business owners were most likely to rate "economic policies that affect small-business owners" as extremely or very important, followed by tax code changes/tax regulations/tax rates, increasing consumer confidence in the economy, and healthcare. Owners were least likely to mention increasing the minimum wage, the Small Business Administration, environmental regulations/climate change, and government regulation of banks as important issues for the 2020 winner to address.
Challenges Facing Small-Business Owners
Owners continue to be most likely to cite "attracting customers/finding new business" as the top challenge facing their business, in line with most recent surveys. This quarter, competition from other larger companies and online retailers was the challenge next most likely to be cited, followed by hiring and the difficulty associated with being self-employed.
Small-business owners remain upbeat about their company's financial outlook. While a majority rate the national economy as excellent or good, there is some anxiety over the potential for an economic downturn or recession in the next 12 months. These owners understand that their fortunes are tied to the current state of the U.S. economy, although most feel at least somewhat prepared to handle a recession should it come.
Small-business owners recognize that the outcome of the 2020 presidential election will have a major impact on their business -- but so far, only about three in 10 believe the candidates are discussing the issues important to them, which appear to be the economy, taxes and healthcare.
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Farmer Sentiment on Trade and the Overall Ag Economy Improves as Fall Harvest Gets Underway
Oklahoma Farm Report
05 Nov 2019
The Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer improved 15 points to a reading of 136 in October. The upswing is attributable to 15-point increases in both of the barometer's sub-indices. The Index of Current Conditions rose to a reading of 155 and the Index of Future Expectations rose to a reading of 146. The barometer is based on a mid-month survey of 400 U.S. crop and livestock producers.
"Almost across the board, farmers were more optimistic about the agricultural economy in October," said James Mintert, the barometer's principal investigator and director of Purdue University's Center for Commercial Agriculture. "While the level of optimism among farmers is higher than earlier this year, the survey uncovered additional uncertainty related to trade agreements that are still being negotiated."
In addition to the standard survey, questions were added to this month's barometer survey to gauge whether farmers feel these pending trade agreements are important to the U.S. agricultural economy.
The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement is still waiting on approval by the U.S. Congress. When asked whether they felt that agreement was important to the U.S. agricultural economy, 96 percent of producers indicated it was either important or very important. However, only 55 percent expect it to be approved by Congress soon. At the same time, 97 percent of producers felt a recently announced trade deal with Japan was also important or very important to U.S. agriculture.
Since last spring, Purdue researchers have been tracing producers' perceptions regarding the soybean trade dispute between the U.S. and China¬--specifically, whether they think the dispute will be resolved soon and the outcome will ultimately benefit U.S. agriculture. In October, 51 percent of respondents said that an imminent resolution was unlikely, which is down from a reading of 59 percent in September and 71 percent in August. At the same time, 75 percent of farmers in the October survey said they expect the final outcome will ultimately prove beneficial to U.S. agriculture. October marked the fourth month in a row that over 70 percent of producers said they expected a beneficial outcome to the trade dispute.
Farmers were more optimistic about farmland values increasing, and less inclined to think cash rental rates would decline, than in September. When asked to look ahead in the farmland market, both 12 months and 5 years into the future, more producers said they expect farmland values to increase. Meanwhile, just 14 percent of producers expect cash rental rates to decline in the upcoming year compared to 22 percent who thought a decline likely when surveyed in September. The Farm Capital Investment Index also saw an uptick, rising 12 points in October, after a two-month decline, as farmers were more favorably disposed toward making large investments in their farming operations.
Read the full October Ag Economy Barometer report at https://purdue.ag/agbarometer. This month's report asks farmers about their spring planting intentions and whether they anticipate USDA providing Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments for the 2020 crop. The site also offers additional resources – such as...
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