Amid further signs of trouble in the housing and financial markets, small employers and consumers alike are growing more worried about economy. Here's a look at this week's economic developments and how they may impact your business.

Owner Optimism Declines
While their general outlook on the economy soured in March, more small-business owners were expecting conditions in their own specific markets to improve over the next few months, Discover reported on Monday.

In a survey of 1,000 business owners nationwide, nearly half said business conditions in their sector were getting better, up from 44 percent in February, the report said. The number of owners citing cash-flow problems also dropped to 33 percent from 39 percent in February, the report said.

Despite those gains, 51 percent said they felt the economy as a whole was getting worse, compared to just 47 percent last month, the report.

"With uncertainty in so many sectors, it isn't surprising that the percentage of small-business owners who feel the overall economy is getting worse did increase this month, " Sastry Rachakonda, director of Discover's small-business credit card, said in a statement.

Consumer Confidence Drops
Uncertainty in the financial markets coupled with rising gas prices drove down consumer confidence in March, the Conference Board reported on Tuesday.

Based on a nationwide survey of 5,000 households, the New York-based private research group's consumer confidence index fell to 107.2 from 111.2 the previous month, the report said.

Yet, while the expectations component of the index declined, consumers' assessment with present-day conditions remained steady, the report said. 

"Apprehension about the short-term future has suddenly cast a cloud over consumers' confidence," Lynn Franco, the group's director of consumer research, said in a statement. "The direction of both components over the next few months bears watching to determine whether this decline is just a bump in the road or something more substantial."

New Homes Sales Fall
Sale of new single-family homes dropped by 3.9 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 848,000, the Commerce Department reported on Monday.

Sales of new single-family homes have declines by 18.3 percent in the past 12 months, the report said.

At the end of February, there were 546,000 new homes left on the market, enough for an 8.1 month supply at the current sales rate, the report said.

The median price for new homes last month was $250,000, while the average sales price was $331,000, the report said.

Jobless Claims Down
New claims for unemployment benefits dropped by 10,000 to 308,000 last week, the third consecutive week of declines, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The national insured unemployment rate in the week ending March 17 was unchanged from the previous week at 1.9 percent, with 2.527 million people filing jobless claims, the report said.

The largest decreases in new claims last week were in California, Kentucky, and North Carolina, while the largest increases were in Mississippi, Ohio, and Alabama, the report said.