Weaker US small business confidence bucks firming data

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U.S. small business confidence declined further in February as lingering concerns about sales growth and profits hurt capital spending and hiring plans, a survey showed on Tuesday.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) said its small business optimism index dropped one point to a reading of 92.9 last month, with none of the index's components showing an increase. The index decreased 1.3 percentage points in January.

"Spending and hiring plans weakened a bit as expectations for growth in real sales volumes fell. Earnings trends worsened a bit as owners continued to report widespread gains in worker compensation while holding the line on price increases," the NFIB said in statement.

The sustained weakness is at odds with economic data such as employment, consumer spending and manufacturing that have suggested a pick-up in economic activity after growth slowed to a 1.0 percent annualized rate in the fourth quarter.

Gross domestic product growth estimates for the first quarter are currently above a 2 percent rate.

Six components of the NFIB index fell last month, while the remaining four were unchanged.

Labor market gauges softened slightly and the NFIB said that likely reflected the tepid economic growth in the fourth quarter as the employment question in the survey was backward looking.