NEW YORK -- Small business owners' optimism sank again in July as they expected sales to weaken in the coming months, according to a survey released Tuesday.

The National Federation of Independent Business said its index of small business optimism fell 0.2 points to 91.2. The NFIB, which lobbies on behalf of small business owners on issues including taxes and health care, compiles the index from a survey of its members.

The drop in the index was the second in a row. Since it registered 86.5 after the recession ended in mid-2009, it has moved as high as 94.5 in February before starting to drop.

The survey found that the number of small business owners who expect their sales to fall in the next three months rose 3 percentage points to 28 percent. Only 21 percent said they planned to buy equipment or real estate in the next three to six months.

William Dunkelberg, the group's chief economist, said uncertainty over taxes, which is likely to continue until after the election, contributed to owners' uneasiness. He also noted, "Nothing happened in July that would make owners more optimistic about the near-term future."

The survey was in line with other reports that pointed to growing pessimism among small businesses. Although reports from the Labor Department and the payroll firm ADP showed a pickup in job growth last month, surveys have shown that small businesses are borrowing less. That's a sign they're holding off on expanding. The NFIB survey showed that the vast majority of the owners it surveyed – 79 percent – hadn't made any changes in their employment levels during July.

The survey questioned 1,803 randomly selected NFIB members.

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