Despite an expected federal aid package, the economic outlook of the nation's small-business owners fell to an 18-month low in January, Discover reported this week.

In a survey of 1,000 small-business owners nationwide, 74 percent said they felt economic conditions were getting worse, up from 65 percent in December. Only 26 percent rated the U.S. economy as excellent or good, compared to 29 percent a month earlier.

"Cash flow has dipped and spending on business development is down, which causes concern in this sector," Sastry Rachakonda, director of Discover's business credit card, said in a statement. "It is too early to tell whether any of the proposed stimulus plans are affecting the mood of the small-business segment of the economy," Rachakonda said.

The survey also found the economy ranked highest among key presidential campaign issues for small-business owners, followed by the war in Iraq.