9 Jun 2020

ANZ business surveys show slow return of economic activity and confidence

4:50 pm on 9 June 2020

Two surveys from the ANZ Bank show a gradual return of economic activity and slowly improving business confidence, but also point to a long struggle back to growth.

AUCKLAND, NZ - MAY 29:Traffic on Queen street  on May 29 2013.It's a major commercial thoroughfare in the Auckland CBD, New Zealand's main population center.

ANZ chief economist Sharon Zollner said business sentiment was improving as the economy moved into Covid-19 alert level 1. File image. Photo: 123rf.com

An early and partial reading from the bank's monthly survey of business sentiment showed the pessimism level about the broad economic outlook over the next 12 months eased to a net 33 percent from nearly 42 percent at the end of May.

*See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19

The more closely followed measure of firms' view of their own future had a net 29.1 percent expecting conditions to get worse, down from May's 38.7 percent.

ANZ chief economist Sharon Zollner.

Sharon Zollner. Photo: RNZ / DOM THOMAS

ANZ chief economist Sharon Zollner said sentiment was improving as the economy moved into Covid-19 alert level 1, but the outlook remained gloomy with firms earning less, employing fewer people, facing lower profits, and planning to invest less.

"The hardest-hit sectors - accommodation, hospitality, retail - are the biggest employers, and the resulting unemployment will have unpleasant feedback loops," Zollner said.

"People will feel comfortable going into a shop or restaurant - that's a huge win - but whether they'll feel comfortable spending money is another question again."

Meanwhile, ANZ's tracking of freight movements as an indicator of economic activity also remained soft.

The heavy traffic indicator, which is a real-time snapshot of current business, recovered slightly but was still 7.8 percent lower than a year ago.

The light traffic index, which points six months ahead, also perked up but was still more than a third down on the same month in 2019.

Zollner said in the current climate, heavy traffic was likely to be a good indicator of current economic growth.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs