Optimism continued to decline among small business owners for the fifth straight quarter, according to a new survey.

The Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index dropped to 48 in April, the lowest level reported since the survey's inception in August 2003, when the score was 69. The most recent results represent a 35-point drop from the previous survey in January 2008, and a 66-point drop from the index's highest score in December 2006. The 35-point drop is the index's largest quarterly decrease to date.

Small business owners' future expectations for the next 12 months fell sharply to 30, a 15-point drop from the previous quarter. Meanwhile, their ratings of their current situation dropped 20 points from January to 18.

Despite the drop in overall optimism, survey respondents said they still feel satisfied being small business owners.

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