29 Oct 2020

Construction industry buoys business confidence survey - ANZ

4:02 pm on 29 October 2020

Business confidence continues to improve with construction firms the most optimistic and agriculture and retail the least.

Gravel being used in foundations at a building site in Auckland.

Photo: 123rf

ANZ Bank's October survey has headline sentiment at net -15.7 percent, one point lower than the read earlier in the month, but up significantly on last month's net negative 28.5 percent.

The more closely followed own activity measure, which is how firms view their own outlook, has bounced back to pre-Covid levels to 4.7 percent.

However, while headline confidence was improved, ANZ's chief economist Sharon Zollner said it was not fair to say the bounce was across the board.

"There are mixed messages out of the retail sector. Both activity and employment are reported to be higher, and costs and pricing intentions are certainly not subdued. However, the perceived outlook for both activity and profitability is cloudy."

"Agriculture own activity indicators slipped, possibly reflecting concerns about dry conditions or labour shortages, but the sector is otherwise relatively upbeat."

Indicators from manufacturers showed signs of improvement, but export and investment intentions fell.

"Low export intentions and weakening in parts of the manufacturing sector speak to the fact that this is a global shock. Goods exports have been a bright spot in the economy and we expect that to remain the case: people have to eat, and global food supply chains are under pressure for a range of reasons this year... exporters are quite right to worry that challenges lie ahead."

She said businesses should expect to face tougher times as the cushioning of the wage subsidy faded, but for now levels were robust.

Challenges lie ahead for the New Zealand economy, with the seasonal impact on tourism only starting to be felt and direct fiscal support waning.

"The housing market is supporting 'the vibe' but also starting to spark financial stability concerns."

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