The nation's total capital spending fell by 1.1 percent during the fourth quarter of 1990 - 0.7 percent lower than the government had anticipated - to an annual rate of $529 billion, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday.

But a new survey conducted by the government between January and March indicated that businesses plan to spend $546 billion on plants and equipment during the coming year, a 2.5 percent gain over spending in 1990.By contrast, businesses increased spending at an annual rate of 5 percent in 1990 and by 11.4 percent in 1989.

Analysts had expected the new survey, taken while it became obvious that the economy was mired in recession, would show businesses revising their growth plans downwards.

But the plan for slow growth would come with a 2.2 percent increase in the first quarter, 1.3 percent in the second, and 0.8 percent in the second half of the year.

Inflation-adjusted data showed companies expecting to spend 3.2 percent more during the coming year after a 4.5 percent gain in 1990 and a 10.4 percent increase in 1989 over 1988.

Total nonfarm estimates of spending plans, based on figures not adjusted for inflation, indicated that businesses expected to increase spending in 1991 by $608 billion, 2.7 percent higher than in 1990.

Estimates of nonfarm spending for 1990 totalled $592 billion, 5 percent higher than in 1989.

Revised figures released by the government showed that spending on new plants increased 5.2 percent in 1990 over 1989, while new equipment purchases topped out at a 5 percent gain over the previous year.

Real, or inflation-adjusted figures, showed businesses planned to spend 3.2 percent more in 1991.