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News : Irish Economy Last Updated: Mar 14, 2011 - 5:24 AM

Irish business sentiment improves in first quarter of 2011
By Finfacts Team
Mar 14, 2011 - 5:15 AM

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IBEC, the Irish business lobby group, in its quarterly business sentiment survey released today, shows what it terms a promising improvement in business sentiment in the first quarter of 2011.

While the overall index improved to -23 from -32 in Q4, manager's assessment of the current conditions of their own business only slightly improved to +15 in Q1 2011 from +13 in Q4 2010. However, perceptions about the outlook in three month's time jumped to+19 from +7 in the previous quarter.

The number of firms polled was 400. 

IBEC chief economist Fergal O'Brien said: "
Our members are now much more positive about both their current business conditions and the outlook for their businesses over the coming three months. The three-month outlook strengthened from +7 in the final quarter of last year to +19 in the current quarter. Understandably, given ongoing concerns around public finances and banking, the majority of businesses remain less confident in relation to the wider economic environment. The overall business confidence indicator remained negative at -23 in Q1, but this was an improvement from -32 in the final quarter of last year.

"It is clear that, despite the turbulent external environment, businesses trading from Ireland have been able to sustain a relatively robust recovery. Exporting companies are predominantly positive in their outlook with almost two-thirds expecting their export sales to grow over the coming three months. The position of domestic business is clearly not as strong, but it has strengthened sharply from -12 in Q4 of last year to +1 in the current quarter.

"Although negative ratings continue to outweigh positives, the improvement in forward-looking sentiment is the strongest proof yet that the IMF/EU loan deal agreement and the prospect of stable government have helped stabilise companies' perceptions about the economy.

"Encouragingly, expectations about domestic sales improved in Q1, jumping to +1 from -12 in Q4 2010. The split between companies expecting sales to decrease, increase or remain stable is now roughly even.

"One of the major positives in the survey findings is that job prospects are improving significantly. Manufacturing businesses are hiring again and the overall employment index has improved from -13 to -3. This provides some hope for a better labour market situation as the year progresses. However, we will need further observations to see whether the upturn proves sustainable; the index had briefly turned positive in Q1 2010 before sliding back into negative territory for the remainder of the year.

"The onus on the new Government is to get to work quickly and put in place a coherent job strategy. Their task now is to replicate the positive news on the export front with sustainable growth in the domestic sector."

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