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Australia business confidence, activity improve in Q2: survey

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Australian businesses were in a better mood last quarter as sales and profitability picked up, with a survey finding confidence had turned positive for all sectors outside mining.

[SYDNEY] Australian businesses were in a better mood last quarter as sales and profitability picked up, with a survey finding confidence had turned positive for all sectors outside mining.

National Australia Bank's quarterly survey of more than 900 firms showed its index of business confidence rose to +4 in the second quarter, up from 0 the previous quarter and the highest in nine months.

Its index of business conditions edged up a point to +4, above the long-run average of +1.

NAB's monthly versions of the survey had already shown a marked pick-up in activity as the quarter progressed. The June survey showed confidence climbed to its highest in 21 months at +10, while the conditions index climbed to +11. "While Australia continues to face a 'patchwork' economy, the Q2 survey finally gave some indication that positive momentum is broadening across sectors," said NAB chief economist Alan Oster. "In particular, confidence is now positive for all industries outside of the mining sector." Mining continued to be dogged by weaker commodity prices and falling investment, while industries sensitive to low interest rates and the more competitive Australian dollar were faring better, he added.

Respondents were also optimistic that the pick-up would extend over a three- and 12-month horizon.

The survey's measure of investment plans for the next 12 months remained relatively strong at +18, with expectations on spending positive for all sectors except mining and wholesale.

This series has been painting a much more upbeat picture on investment than the government's survey of capex plans, which had pointed to a pullback in non-mining spending.

REUTERS