The National Federation of Independent Business is seeing the level of small business optimism beginning to flatten out.

The NFIB’s Small Business Optimism Index rose only 0.1 points in January, the group reported, settling at 93.9. While the increase marks five consecutive months of improvement, the readings from January and February 2011 were actually higher -- indicating no net gain for the calendar year. Historically, the NFIB pointed out, optimism remains at recession levels. While small business owners appeared less pessimistic about the outlook for business conditions and real sales growth, that optimism did not materialize in hiring or increased inventories plans.

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