Business conditions improved slightly in November, in particularly the services and retail sector, according to National Australia Bank monthly business survey.

For the first time since March 2010, the retail sector reported a non-negative read in business conditions. It was one of the most notable sectors in which business conditions showed improvement in November, alongside transport & utilities, mining, wholesale and recreation & personal services.

These results were consistent in the business confidence by industry category where while general confidence deteriorated across industries in the month, in level terms, retailers were “surprisingly” the most confident on the back of improved conditions at +6 points. This was followed by finance/ business/ property (+4) and wholesale (+3), while transport & utilities (-3) and mining (-1) were the least confident.

At the same time, retail price growth also ticked up in the month, although was even more subdued at just 0.1 per cent. However, retail purchase costs fell by 0.2 percentage points in the month, implying that margins in the retail sector actually improved a little.

Despite these positive indications, in trends terms trading conditions for retail was reported as one of the weakest at -8 points with manufacturing at -11 points.