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Business confidence creeps up, but dark cloud still looms

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 4 days ago
a person walking down a city street © RNZ /Dom Thomas

Business confidence is slowly improving but remains deeply negative.

The June Business Outlook from the ANZ Bank showed unease has eased slightly, with a net 34 percent of respondents pessimistic about the broad economic outlook for the next 12 months, down from nearly 42 percent at the end of May.

The more closely followed measure of firms' view of their own future showed a net 26 percent expect conditions to get worse, down from May's 39 percent.

ANZ chief economist Sharon Zollner said the poll points to a recession that was just getting started.

She said the rebound since lockdown rules were eased was pleasing but probably not sustainable.

"New Zealand with a closed border is a significantly smaller economy, at least in the near term, and the recession is just starting to make itself felt."

The survey indicates businesses' investment intentions were recovering more quickly than employment intentions.

"The outlook for the labour market is of particular concern at the moment, with the pressures from the loss of international tourism particularly pronounced for people-centric industries of tourism, hospitality and retail," Zollner said.

The services sector was extremely negative regarding employment intentions, relative to historical data.

The agriculture sector was concerned about profits, and was also concerned about credit availability, along with the manufacturing sector.

Zollner said a pickup in consumer spending was an encouraging sign, but may not be sustainable.

"Our consumer confidence survey suggests wariness on the part of households about what the future may bring, and accordingly, a desire to prune discretionary spending.

"The bizarreness of the lockdown experience means we must be very careful about making any inferences from current spending trends about what consumer behaviour may look like six months down the track."

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