Business confidence in the wider UK economy plunged in May as companies were shaken by developments in the crisis-hit eurozone, a survey showed today.
The Lloyds Bank Wholesale Banking and Markets Business Barometer fell to minus 21% from 26% last month, meaning most respondents are negative on the view of the economy.
The eurozone crisis continued to escalate throughout May as fears grew over the health of the Spanish economy and the possibility of Greece exiting the euro.
Trevor Williams, chief economist at Lloyds Bank Wholesale Banking -amp; Markets, said: "The renewed concern around the eurozone is clearly having an impact on businesses' sentiment towards prospects for the UK economy and, to a lesser extent, to their own prospects."
Companies also became less confident about their own prospects, although the decline was not as severe as the sentiment towards the broader economic outlook.
Businesses' confidence in relation to their own prospects currently stands at 35%, down eight points on April's 43%, Lloyds said, which still remains higher than during the worst of the financial crisis in 2008/09.
The survey data suggests an underlying 0.2% growth in gross domestic product (GDP) between April and June, Lloyds said, but only once the impact of the Diamond Jubilee is taken into account, which is likely to have reduced growth by 0.5 percentage points. The most notable declines in confidence in May came in the North and Midlands and in the retail and distribution sector.
An Ulster Bank PMI report revealed last month that business activity in the Northern Ireland private sector economy has continued to decrease, making it the hardest hit region in the UK and extending the current period of reduction to six months.
The deepening troubles in the eurozone have also hit confidence on stock markets.