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Australia business conditions ease further, dent confidence

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National Australia Bank's survey of more than 400 firms showed its index of business conditions fell to +1 from +3 in August, retreating further from July's multi-year highs - PHOTO: REUTERS

[SYDNEY] A measure of Australian business conditions eased in September to its lowest in four months as soft forward orders prompted destocking and competitive pricing that appeared to have weighed on profitability.

National Australia Bank's survey of more than 400 firms showed its index of business conditions fell to +1 from +3 in August, retreating further from July's multi-year highs.

The report's index of business confidence dipped 2 points to +5, while its measure of employment fell to -4 from -1, pointing to a subdued labour market. "The effects of soft national income growth - a function of lower commodity prices, excess capacity and cautious spending behaviour - are being felt across the economy," said Alan Oster, chief economist at NAB. "This has been reflected in most industries." Looking through the monthly volatility, NAB said while the trend in business conditions still looked reasonable, it will slow significantly if things don't improve soon.

The trend series for confidence edged down 1 point to +7, with construction the highest at +15 and mining the lowest by a large margin at -14.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has been counting on a revival in the housing market to help offset the drag from a cooling boom in mining investment. - Reuters