Sparked by the recent Federal Reserve interest rate cuts, economic optimism among the nation's small-business owners dropped to a 14-year low in November, the National Federation of Independent Business reported this week.

The downturn was driven by lower expectations for sales and improved business conditions, along with a weaker earnings trend, the Washington-based lobby group said.

"Things were looking good on Main Street until the Fed warned that the economy was at risk of sinking," William Dunkelberg, the group's chief economist, said in a statement. He said small-business owners responded by cutting hiring, capital spending, and other growth-related activities.

More owners were also planning to boost prices last month, raising concerns of inflation in the months ahead, Dunkelberg said.