Rising interest rates and prices for oil, gas and other commodities are a growing concern for small business owners even as they feel more confident about the economy. That's the finding of a Bank of America survey of owners released last week.

Just over half of the more than 1,300 owners surveyed in February and March called rising rates a concern, up from 37% in a survey taken nearly a year earlier. The Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark interest rate three times since last year's survey was completed in April, and said last month it expects two more rate increases this year and three in 2019.

Half the owners called rising commodities prices a concern, up from 36%. Energy costs affect most if not all small businesses. The price of gasoline averaged $2.56 a gallon nationally in mid-February and $2.80 last week; it's up from $2.34 a year earlier.

But 56% of the owners surveyed expect their local economies to improve over the next 12 months, up from 48% in a survey six months earlier. And 54% expect a stronger national economy, up from 46%.

Owners' increasingly upbeat view of the economy is in line with other recent surveys. The strengthening economy and expectations of lower corporate taxes are two of the factors behind their rising optimism. Their outlook for their companies is also brighter — 60% in the Bank of America survey predict their revenue will rise in the next 12 months. That's up from 48% in the survey a year ago.

Small Business Week seminars

National Small Business Week events being held this week include a series of online seminars, part of a virtual conference sponsored by the Small Business Administration and SCORE, which offers free counseling for small companies. Topics include social media and other marketing strategies, and workplace issues including sexual harassment and managing finances. The seminars will be held Tuesday through Thursday. You can learn more and register at www.score.org/live-webinars.

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