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Soaring economic optimism buoys East of England business confidence

28 Feb Soaring economic optimism buoys East of England business confidence

Business confidence in the East of England rose eight points during February to 26%, thanks to a sharp rise in economic optimism across the region, according to the latest Business Barometer from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

Companies in the East report slightly lower confidence in their business prospects, which fell two points to 21%, but higher economic optimism, which leapt 21 points to 32%, giving an overall confidence of 26%.

Businesses’ hiring intentions showed that a net balance of 12% of businesses in the region expect to hire more staff during the next year, down 11 points on last month.

Across the East, a net balance of 22% of businesses said they felt that the UK’s exit from the European Union was having a positive impact on their expectations for business activity. This compares to last month when a net balance of 10% said it would have a negative impact, with the change reflecting greater clarity around Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Across the UK, overall confidence was unchanged on last month at 23% as firms’ optimism in the economy and confidence in their own prospects held steady.

The Business Barometer questions 1,200 businesses monthly and provides early signals about UK economic trends both regionally and nationwide.

David Atkinson, regional director for the East of England at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “Businesses in the East of England are continuing to take positive strides in 2020, which comes on the back of some greater political and economic certainty. The optimism firms are showing towards the economy is also encouraging.

“We will continue to stand by the side of businesses across the region and we anticipate lending up to £1.7 billion to East of England firms during 2020.”

Regional picture

Businesses in London had the highest confidence at 29%, ahead of the West Midlands at 28%, and the East Midlands at 27%.

Those in Wales were the least confident, with an overall confidence of -2%, 25 points below the national average.