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Get Started: Builders index a good sign for small businesses

Posted September 19

RISING BUILDER OPTIMISM

A more upbeat sales outlook from homebuilders could be a good sign for small business, and in turn, the economy.

Sales of new and already occupied homes help spur sales of building supplies, home furnishings, landscaping and other items. Some economists believe that small companies in a number of industries won't begin expanding and hiring with more enthusiasm until the housing industry shows more signs of strengthening.

The survey released Monday by the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo & Co. showed builders' confidence is the highest it has been in nearly a year. An index compiled by the group and bank stands at 65 for September, up from a downwardly revised reading of 59 last month.

Readings above 50 indicate more builders, who include many small businesses, view sales conditions as good rather than poor. The index has been mostly at 58 since rising to 61 in January. The last time it reached 65 was October of last year.

A component of the index that assesses builders' outlook for the next six months rose to 71 from August's 65.

Sales of new U.S. homes rose in July to the fastest pace in nearly nine years.

ONLINE REVIEWS

People who write reviews on sites like Yelp!, Google and TripAdvisor are getting some government reinforcement of their rights to speak freely in their posts.

The House passed the Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016, which prohibits businesses from requiring their customers to agree to not post negative reviews about goods or services. Some companies have demanded that customers agree to what are known as non-disparagement clauses in sales contracts. A similar version of the House bill is pending in the Senate.

And the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling dismissing a case brought by a Washington state locksmith against Yelp! The lawsuit contended that Yelp! was liable for negative comments posted by a reviewer. The appeals court ruled that because Yelp! disseminates reviewers' comments and ratings does not mean that it created the posted content.

SMALL BUSINESS PERSON AWARDS

Nominations are being accepted for the Small Business Administration's awards including National Small Business Person of the Year. The awards, which also include exporter of the year and small business contractor and subcontractor honors, are given out during Small Business Week, scheduled next year for April 30 through May 6.

The Small Business Person of the Year is selected from winners of competitions in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam.

Information about the awards including submission forms and criteria for the selection of winners can be found on the SBA website: www.sba.gov/nsbw/awards

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Follow Joyce Rosenberg at www.twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg . Her work can be found here: http://bigstory.ap.org/content/joyce-m-rosenberg

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