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Data results show confidence rising

ECONOMIC data released over the past week indicates that executives are particularly bullish about their future business prospects despite SARS, terrorism and an United States economy that is prey to deflationary pressure.

The D&B National Business Expectations Survey showed, despite the slump in tourism and the strong rise in the Australian dollar against the US dollar, expectations are the best in 15 months. Capital investment plans are the strongest in three years, and one in three executives surveyed believes the rise in the Australian dollar was good for their business.

Profits and employment expectations were also strong. The NAB Monthly Business Survey found the business, property and financial services and construction sector kicked up significantly in May while the tourism and agricultural sectors fell back.

The good news on future business investment plans follows on from what has already been a robust 12 months.

While in Western Australia, business investment has slowed to rise just 0.3 per cent between the December and March quarters, in seasonally adjusted terms, it still enjoyed a healthy gain of close to 30 per cent in the four quarters to March 2003. This ensured that WA’s annual growth in demand of 7 per cent was equal highest of all the States, alongside Queensland.

The ANZ Advertised Job Vacancy series, released on Tuesday, also supports the optimism expressed in the executive business surveys.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA chief economist Nicky Cusworth said the ANZ results that showed a recovery in May job advertisements reflected that the underlying direction of advertisements in WA was stronger than nationally.

WA’s job vacancy rate rose 7.4 per cent between April and May and increased more than 25 per cent in the past year.

Looking ahead to the September quarter, the national D&B survey of 1,200 executives is pointing toward vacancy rates rising further, with 33 per cent of executives expecting an increase in staff numbers and 16 per cent a reduction.

Inflationary pressure was cited as a serious impediment which, if unleashed, could threaten to unwind the capital and employment investment.

Almost 40 per cent of businesses said they would cut back on spending if inflation, promoted by a fall in interest rates, was to rise.

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