NEW YORK – For the sixth straight month, the National Federation of Independent Business' monthly Small Business Optimism index, published Tuesday, increased, rising to 94.3 in February, a 0.4-point rise.

“While still historically low, the latest increase is a sign that the recovery is likely to continue, albeit at a glacial pace,” the group said.

Despite the gain, the index is still lower than a year ago. The index indicated business owners “became slightly more pessimistic about the outlook for business conditions but more optimistic about future sales growth, making the reading mixed bag, although headed largely in the right direction.”

"The good news for small-business owners and those watching the economy is that things are getting better. However, at this slow pace of growth and recovery, it could be years before we are again enjoying prosperity," said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. "The price of gasoline is a wild card, and rising energy costs will weigh heavy on the minds of small firm owners. The economy is holding on to tenuous gains, moving ahead in fits and starts which, hopefully, will result in future positive growth. First quarter growth will not likely match that of the fourth quarter, 2011, but it should remain positive. In the meantime, we will crawl toward the November election to get a clearer picture of our future."

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