Shrugging off declines in the housing market, the nation's small-business owners are feeling more optimistic about the economy, according to a recent survey by OPEN from American Express.

Of 626 owners polled nationwide, 87 percent said they had a positive outlook, reflected in stronger hiring and spending plans in the months ahead. One in three owners said they expected to hire full or part-time workers over the next six months, while those who weren't planning any new hires fell to a six-year low. Another 60 percent were planning to boost spending on new technology, equipment, software, and real estate. Just 30 percent said the recent downtown in the housing market had an negative impact on their business.

"Entrepreneurs are the bellwether for many of the country's most important industries because they are so closely connected to purchasing decisions," Susan Sobbott, the president of OPEN from American Express, said in a statement. "Business owners continue to grow in their optimism, a good sign for the small business sector and the economy in general."

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