28 Nov 2008

Business confidence at 1988 level - survey

6:09 am on 28 November 2008

Business confidence in New Zealand is its lowest level in 20 years as companies struggle to cope with the global financial crisis and a severe economic downturn.

The National Bank's monthly business outlook shows pessimists outnumber optimists in November: 14% of companies expect their own fortunes to worsen over the next year, compared with 11% expecting a conditions to deteriorate in the previous survey.

That's the worst reading since April 1988.

Companies also expect lower profits, to employ fewer people and invest less. They also expect to export less, despite the lower New Zealand dollar.

More bad news ahead

The New Zealand economy has been in recession since the start of the year. National Bank chief economist Cameron Bagrie says the survey indicates there is worse to come.

In the current economic environment, he says the Reserve Bank may lower the Offical Cash rate by 150 percentage points on 4 December, to 5%.

Overall, a net 43% of respondents expect the economy to worsen over the next 12 months compared with a net 42% who expected it to worsen in October.

Separately, Reserve Bank figures show the level of household borrowing has slowed sharply, rising a seasonally adjusted 0.2% in October, to be 6% ahead of last year.