October 30, 2008 / 3:49 PM / in 9 years

Canada small business optimism sliding: survey

TORONTO (Reuters) - A weekly survey of Canadian small-business owners shows that optimism is falling and now hovers near depths reached in August 1990, when the country was in recession.

“There is no doubt the continuing bad news in international markets has seriously dented small business operating plans,” the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said on Thursday.

Its survey of 809 owners showed that 39 percent of them expect their businesses to be “somewhat weaker” in the next year, up from 32 percent who said so a week earlier.

Access to credit appears to have stabilized, but hiring intentions have swung lower, the group said.

Only 20 percent of those surveyed expect to add full-time staff in the next year, down from 23 percent a week earlier. On the other hand, 19 percent expect to reduce their employee levels, up from 16 percent a week earlier.

“These are considerably weaker numbers than recorded as little as six weeks ago,” the CFIB said.

The business group normally conducts its “Barometer” survey quarterly, but it is running the survey each week until mid-November. Its next survey results will be released November 6.

Reporting by Lynne Olver; Editing by Peter Galloway.

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