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Small business confidence bounces back

27 March 2018

Small business confidence bounces backConfidence among UK small firms is rising according to the Federation of Small Businesses.

The latest FSB Small Business Index has found that more than seven in ten SMEs expect their performance to either improve (32%) or remain the same (40%) over the next three months; only 27% lack confidence about the coming quarter.

It means that the Small Business Index measure stands at +6 in Q1 2018, up from -2.5 in Q4 2017. The rise in confidence comes after the Index fell in every quarter of 2017.

Mike Cherry, FSB national chairman, said: "After a 2017 dogged by spiralling prices and political uncertainty, it's good to see small business confidence back in the black. The resilience of the small firms and self-employed entrepreneurs that make up 99% of UK businesses has lifted economic forecasts for the coming 12 months."

The Index also shows that 67% of firms say revenues are either stable or increasing and the proportion of firms planning to increase investment has hit a two-year high (33%). Half of small businesses expect to expand operations over the coming 12 months.

International traders are bullish, with the share of small exporters expecting global sales to increase over the coming three months at a one-year high (42%).

However, the picture is mixed across sectors, with firms in retail, accommodation and food services reporting negative readings. Manufacturers, professional services and scientific firms are among the most confident.

"Consumer-facing firms are still trying to keep their heads above water after a year of customer belt-tightening and business rates hikes," said Cherry. "As a labour-intensive industry, small firms in the retail sector will disproportionately feel the impacts of a rise in the national living wage and auto-enrolment contributions next month."

Economic and political conditions are becoming more favourable, he added. "Positive commitments from the chancellor, along with agreement on a Brexit transition period and falling inflation, should make it easier for small business to plan, invest and grow in the months ahead."

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