Small-business owners say they are both hopeful and cautious about the economy in 2012. A recent survey by the National Federation of Businesses showed that nearly a quarter of them plan capital outlays within six months. Many plan to hire more people and invest in sales growth. The increased willingness of banks to lend to small businesses is behind some of the optimism, but uncertainty about the U.S. budget, European debt and consumer spending continue to be worries.

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