Business confidence is slowly improving according to a new survey, although the willingness of companies to hire or invest is slipping.
The latest National Bank Business Outlook showed a net 20 per cent of respondents expected general business conditions to improve over the coming 12 months, up from a net 15 per cent a month ago.
Firms' own activity expectations, typically a better guide to economic activity than general confidence, was stronger again, with a net 26.4 per cent expecting improvement, the long term average for the survey.
However the survey showed that improving confidence is not prompting investment. Those expecting to take on new staff over the coming year were a net 6 per cent, down from 11 per cent a month ago. Investment expectations fell from 13 per cent to 11 per cent.
''We're once again left with an economy where one of the clearest trends is the lack of one,'' ANZ National chief economist Cameron Bagrie said, with the annual economic growth implied by the survey of 2.4 per cent
''That's respectable but far from stellar, testament to the wide array of structural and cyclical forces hitting the economy.''
Bagrie said there may be seasonal forces at play, with the coming of spring tending to improve confidence.
''Stripping out the mild seasonal factor we appear to be flat-lining.''
Inflation expectations from the survey were for annual price increases of 2.34 per cent, comfortably within the Reserve Bank's 1-3 per cent target.
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