Back to reality for business confidence

Business confidence is well off its highs, ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie says.

Releasing the ANZ Business Confidence survey, Mr Bagrie said optimists continued to significantly outnumber pessimists.

A net 43% of firms were optimistic about general prospects.

''While it's down 11 points this month, and 28 points off its peak, it's still a huge 33 points above the long-run average of +10%.

''Our economy-wide seasonally-adjusted estimate dropped seven points in the month, so the onset of the colder months is not to blame.''

It was not difficult to think of reasons why confidence had waned, he said.

Interest rates were higher, dairy and forestry export prices were sharply lower, the housing market was levelling out and the dollar continued to defy gravity.

The level of confidence remained high by historical standards but was starting to look more realistic, Mr Bagrie said.

That was natural when an economy moved into the ''glide path'' associated with an economic expansion. There was no reason to reach for the defibrillator, he said.

Other findings included. -

• Expected profitability had now been falling for four consecutive months but the falls were getting smaller.

• A net 24% of businesses expect to be hiring more staff over the year ahead, well down from a peak of 32% in February.

• Investment intentions moved up from 23 to 26.

• Export intentions were their lowest in a year.

• A net 52% of firms expected an uplift in residential construction activity and a net 36% rise in commercial construction - both down on the previous month.

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