Numerous reports show that business sentiment is improving

13th April 2017.

Small firms bullish

A report from the Federation of Small Business has revealed that SMEs’ confidence in the economy is at its highest level in nearly 18 months. The FSB’s index scored their optimism at 20 points, up from -2.9 after June’s Brexit vote. The weak Pound has lifted overseas sales, according to the survey of 1,245 firms. The recovery in the headline figure comes despite a surge in the cost of doing business. A net balance of 64.5% of small firms reported an increase in operating costs over the past quarter, the highest proportion since the summer of 2013. Fuel (36.8%) and labour (35.9%) are cited most often as the main causes of this increase, with the exchange rate (26.9%) also frequently flagged.

The Times, Page: 44    The Sun, Page: 19   Press Release   The Scotsman, Page: 35

Business leaders more confident

A quarterly survey of global CFOs and finance professionals, conducted by ACCA and IMA, has found that confidence among business leaders rebounded ahead of the triggering of Article 50. The performance is consistent with a global uplift in confidence, with an optimistic mood in the US combining with a stable outlook in China, India and the eurozone. Faye Chua, head of business insights at ACCA, said: “Confidence levels in the UK since the referendum in June have surprised many observers, with consumer spending proving robust and the fall in sterling providing a boost to exporters. Even with the expectation that Article 50 would be triggered by the end of the quarter, businesses are still clearly expecting favourable economic conditions in the short term. Yet while this means the UK enters the Brexit negotiations in better shape than anticipated, this only marks the beginning of a long and uncertain process.”

Yorkshire Post, Page: 1

Companies start year well

The British Chambers of Commerce has said Britain’s companies have had a solid start to the year and conditions are expected to improve in 2017. Domestic and export sales increased compared with the end of 2016. Hiring intentions were up and confidence in turnover and profitability was improving, the BCC said. The results mirrored recent economic indicators that suggested the economy expanded by at least 0.4% in the first quarter. Although that would be slower than the 0.7% achieved in the final three months of 2016, the fastest rate in two years, it would put the UK on course to match or beat last year’s 1.8% annual GDP growth.

The Times, Page: 44

Wage growth tails off to ‘just above zero’

The number of people unemployed fell by 45,000 to 1.56m in the three months to February, according to the ONS. The unemployment rate remains at 4.7% as inflation starts to wipe out wage growth. ONS senior statistician David Freeman said: “A joint record employment rate and a new record high for the number of vacancies point to continued strength in the labour market. However, higher inflation, coupled with subdued earnings increases, means that the real growth rate in pay has tailed off to just above zero.”

The Times, Page: 4   Financial Times, Page: 2   The Daily Telegraph   The Independent, Page: 57   Daily Mail, Page: 21