Business confidence picks up from Q1 lows: Poll

Business confidence has rebounded after sinking to historic lows at the start of the year, according to a survey out yesterday.

The Singapore Commercial Credit Bureau's (SCCB) latest quarterly Business Optimism Index (BOI) rose to 0.89 percentage points for the April to June quarter, up from negative 2.93 percentage points in the first three months of the year.

Despite the upturn, business confidence remains weak compared with the corresponding period last year, when the index registered a reading of 9 percentage points.

The quarterly survey polled 200 business owners and senior executives representing major industry sectors. They were asked if they expect increases, decreases or no changes in six business indicators: sales, profits, employment, new orders, inventories and selling prices.

The indices are calculated by subtracting the percentage of respondents expecting decreases from the percentage expecting increases.

The construction industry emerged as the most optimistic sector for the second quarter.

The improved outlook within the sector is due to an anticipated increase in public sector construction demand in the coming months, the SCCB said.

With the exception of selling price, all of the sector's business indicators were expansionary.

On the other end of the spectrum, the manufacturing and mining sectors emerged as the least optimistic.

Manufacturers remain downbeat about the outlook largely due to a continued contraction in the electronics and transport engineering sub-sectors, said SCCB.

Meanwhile, the mining sector has been "decimated by a global commodity slump", with five of six business indicators in the contractionary region.

"With the lacklustre global economic growth posing a drag on the local economy, the outlook for the business community will remain subdued in the coming months. It is quite unlikely we will see any significant improvement in the BOI anytime soon," said SCCB chief executive Audrey Chia.

"The services industry, in particular, has anticipated cautious optimism for the second quarter ahead due largely to the effects of weaker demand following brisk festive sales during the months before."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2016, with the headline 'Business confidence picks up from Q1 lows: Poll'. Print Edition | Subscribe