Business expectations have returned to pre-GFC levels with the latest Dun & Bradstreet national business expectations survey recording a lift in expectations for the June quarter, with the outlook for sales hitting its highest level in almost a decade.
The survey of manufacturing, retail and wholesale firms conducted in January there are preliminary expectations for June quarter sales (+21) and profits (+8) were more than twice March quarter forecasts. These sales expectations are now at their strongest level since the December quarter 2003, well before the onset of the global financial crisis.
Dun & Bradstreet CEO, Christine Christian, said the strong sentiment was encouraging and corresponded with D&B trade payments and collections data which indicated that business performance tended to experience a cyclical peak during the second quarter of the year.
"Historically, leading indicators of financial stability, such as cash flow, have improved during the June quarter as firms gain momentum. We are also no doubt seeing businesses increasingly factoring in the impact of further interest rate reductions on their operations," she said.
The results come off the back of stronger than expected sales and profit performance during the December quarter across most sectors. Firms finished 2011 with an actual final quarter sales result up eight index points and final quarter profits up 10 points.
Despite swelling confidence, the number of businesses welcoming the high Australian dollar has dropped from 45 per cent in January 2011 to 38 per cent in January 2012. Not surprisingly, concern over the high Aussie dollar has risen from 11 to 27 per cent year on year.
According to Duncan Ironmonger, Dun & Bradstreet's economic consultant, the latest survey indicates a possible link between poor expectations from wholesale firms and concern over online selling.
"All wholesale expectations indexes are lower in the second quarter than the first. Wholesale trade was the only sector to expect a decline in employment in the second quarter," he said.
"Concurrently, 53 per cent of wholesale executives expect online internet selling by their competitors will have an adverse effect on their business in the year ahead. This compares with 50 percent for retailers, 42 per cent for non-durables manufacturers and only 21 per cent for durables manufacturers.