The Atlanta Fed's semiannual survey of small businesses was recently released, and it shows that firms are slightly more optimistic than they were last year. The expectations to hire staff or increase sales over the next 12 months increased, but plans for capital investment remained flat. Actual business performance was consistent with last October's findings with 21 percent of respondents reporting increased sales and 9 percent hiring new staff. The survey, conducted in the first and third quarters each year, looks at business and financing conditions of small businesses in the Southeast.

Financing opportunities appear to be improving. Thirty percent of respondents applied for credit, with about 60 percent of businesses having most or all of their requests filled. That's a significant increase over the first quarter of 2013 when only 40 percent reported having their requests mostly satisfied. Businesses had the greatest success with attaining financing by applying to regional or community banks.

Despite this improvement, many small businesses were discouraged from applying for credit. Sixteen percent were discouraged due to anticipation of bad credit terms or the fear of being turned down. This rate varied significantly based upon the age of the business. Young firms were nearly twice as likely to be discouraged from seeking financing as mature ones.

You can examine the full survey results and a related macroblog that offers another perspective on the results.