Confidence still at its lowest since GFC

Mark Lister
Mark Lister
The ANZ business outlook survey of the national business community remains at its lowest ebb since the depths of the global financial crisis in 2008.

Headline confidence fell to -52.3 in August, compared with -44.3 in July, on the back of a softer outlook across the agricultural and construction sectors.

This is despite ambitious cuts to the official cash rate and the right noises from the Reserve Bank.

In addition, firms' expectations of their own activity also declined in August, falling to -.5, the lowest level since April 2009 and a big drop from 5.0 in July.

Mark Lister, head of private wealth research at Craigs Investment Partners, said this should be ringing alarm bells.

"Employment and investment intentions fell, profit expectations were down and pricing intentions slipped, despite reported cost pressures, suggesting margins could be at risk."

He said while the services sector appeared more upbeat, the indicators were of an economy that was slowing more quickly than expected.

"There's plenty to worry about, from trade tensions and Brexit risks to a slowing global economy and volatile financial markets," he said.

While the change in attitude from lenders was likely to be weighing some sectors down, New Zealand businesses were better placed than most to weather the possible storm.

"Unemployment is at a decade low, growth is reasonable, our fiscal position is strong and commodity prices have been relatively stable."

He said a slightly weaker currency would have helped boost export incomes.

"On balance, we certainly aren't in bad shape and many other parts of the world would be envious of our economic fundamentals."

He noted, however, that confidence was a crucial ingredient for a healthy economy, so it was worrying that businesses were so downbeat.

"When businesses are in good heart about the future, they are more inclined to look for opportunities to grow and do more. This means investing in plant and equipment, and hiring new staff.

"If businesses get nervous, the opposite happens and they put some of those plans on ice until they feel more optimistic. When that happens, we run the risk of talking ourselves into a slowdown."


Savings about to be confiscated via negative nominal interest rates. Already negative real rates (after taxes) are an indicator of recession and savers/pensioners/investors are missing out whilst they subsidise borrowers and speculators. The cream on top of that is a government that is financially clueless who thinks we can borrow our way to prosperity. Central bankers should not be controlling interest rates in a communistic way that would make Stalin smile.