NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Small business owners were slightly more optimistic at the end of 2012, even as they awaited the outcome of negotiations in Congress over the "fiscal cliff." That's the finding of a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business, a lobbying group. The NFIB's small-business-optimism index rose half a point from its level in November to 88. The index remains near its lowest readings on record. The survey was completed on Dec. 28, four days before the House voted for a bill that avoided tax increases on the middle class and postponed steep budget cuts. The NFIB says its January survey may more accurately reflect how owners feel. With year-end political and tax issues resolved, they can focus on the economy.