Belfast Telegraph

Business confidence hits highest level since March despite Brexit uncertainty

Confidence among firms has reached its highest level since March despite ongoing uncertainty over the Brexit vote and the US presidential election victory of Donald Trump.

UK business confidence rose by seven points to 39% in December, according to Lloyds Bank's business barometer, driven by a 16-point jump in economic optimism to 30%.

Hann-Ju Ho, senior economist at Lloyds, said: "Although significant uncertainties lie ahead, for now, economic optimism in our December survey has recovered near to levels seen at the start of the year.

"In addition, confidence this year has held up much better than it did during the global financial crisis."

While business confidence is on the rise, hiring intentions dropped to their lowest level since February, with the net balance of firms looking to bolster their workforces dropping two points to 22%.

Companies' business prospects slipped three points to 47%, but confidence in consumer services, including retail, hit its highest level since March after clocking up a one-point rise to 37%.

Meanwhile, the net balance of firms looking to boost prices climbed by three points to 17% following sterling's plunge in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Britain's economy is expected to grow by 0.4% in the fourth quarter, down from 0.5% in the previous three months, according to the Bank of England.