Small business confidence reached a new high in March, according to a quarterly survey by ANZ.
Small firms' expectations of their own activity, hiring, investment and profitability had improved for a sixth consecutive quarter, ANZ's Business Micro Scope survey showed.
Optimism rose most in the services sector but confidence also improved in retail, construction and agriculture.
ANZ managing director of retail and business banking Fred Ohlsson said that a "groundswell of business optimism" had now spread across the business community.
"The Canterbury rebuild has helped to spark this upswing but it's really promising that we are now seeing confidence grow right across the country," Ohlsson said.
"The rest of the South Island is prospering from the combined flow-on from the rebuild and high commodity prices, while prospects in our largest city, Auckland, have also taken a big step up."
This boded well for a broad-based increase in business activity, employment and economic growth which would benefit the whole country, Ohlsson said.
A net 49 per cent of small firms expected to lift business activity in the coming year, double the long-term average in the survey. A net 17 per cent planned to take on more staff and 33 per cent expected profits to rise.
The South Island, excluding Canterbury, was the most upbeat among the five regions covered by the survey with confidence rising 1 percentage point to 31 per cent. Optimism at Auckland firms also continued to rise, with a net 26 per cent of firms expressing confidence, a record for the survey.
Services was the most optimistic sector, with confidence at a net 29 per cent. Construction recorded the largest lift in confidence, from a net 21 per cent to 26 per cent, and was also the top sector for profitability expectations.
- Fairfax Media
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