Business blues deepen


Business confidence has fallen to the lowest point since the global financial crisis a decade ago:

The further collapse in businesses’ confidence and in expectations of their own activity is an indictment on the Ardern Government’s economic management, National’s Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“The most recent ANZ Business Outlook survey shows a net negative 52 per cent of businesses are pessimistic about the economy under the bad economic management of the current Government.

“To make it worse, businesses’ expectations of their own activity have fallen to a net negative for the first time since 2009 when the New Zealand economy was in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis. . . 

“When businesses lack confidence in the economy, as they do under the current Government, they are less likely to expand, invest in new staff or lift wages.

Reluctance to expand, invest or lift wages is even more likely when businesses’ expectations of their own activity are so gloomy.

“There has been a sharp decline in the New Zealand economy under this Government. Economic growth has decreased from around 4 per cent down to 2.5 per cent, per-person growth is amongst the worst in the OECD and business investment has fallen from 5 per cent a year under National to just 0.6 per cent under Labour.

“New Zealand should be doing well. The prices for goods we export are near historical highs meaning any effects from global uncertainty and trade tensions haven’t affected our exporters as of yet.

In spite of that farmers are in a similar frame of mind to that during the ag-sag of the 1980s. Uncertainty and  lack of trust in the government are compounded by fear of what it is going through inflict on the farming sector.

The ANZ survey shows the business blues have deepened in towns and cities too.

“Sadly the current Government’s bad economic management have hurt our economy.

“The Government have added costs to businesses and families with higher taxes and more regulations, they’ve created massive uncertainty and they’ve demonstrated incompetence, most famously with KiwiBuild and their woeful infrastructure policies.

“National will restore business confidence and revive our economy so that we can lift our aspirations, both in what we can earn and in what social challenges we can overcome.”

A thriving economy isn’t just about businesses doing well, it’s about job security, export income and the ability to invest in solutions for social problems.

The government has gone quiet on wellbeing with good reason. Businesses without the confidence to expand, invest and lift wages are a symptom of economic illness and that makes a very shaky foundation for wellbeing.

Trust & confidence needed for investment


Who’s surprised?

New Zealand business confidence plunged to a seven-month low in June with retail most gloomy as costs, credit and capacity weigh on firms.

A net 39 per cent of 341 firms surveyed in the ANZ business outlook survey expect general business conditions to deteriorate in the coming 12 months, 12 points lower than May’s result and the lowest that measure has been since November 2017.

The survey has become a political football since the election as headline confidence has continued to weaken, with Finance Minister Grant Robertson saying he thinks it’s an issue around perception and the survey is not historically correlated with GDP growth.

Companies are also typically more downbeat about the broader economy under a Labour administration, and ANZ stressed today that business sentiment “is only one input into the decision-making that drives the economy” and “firms’ expectations of their own activity are a better gauge of future GDP growth.”

That measure was today down but remained positive, with a net 9 per cent of firms predicting increased activity in their own business, from net 14 per cent last month. . .

Businesses need trust and confidence to invest and grow, this government has shown little to foster either.

The captains’ call to halt future oil and gas exploration without consultation or warning; the fuel tax;  the prospect of employment legislation which will strengthen unions at the expense of employers and employees; an increase in strikes; the prospect of higher inflation and interest rates . . .

All this and more are disincentives to the investment which is needed for the business growth which secures and increases employment and economic prosperity.


Cost of confidence slump


Business confidence has fallen to the lowest level in more than eight years:

The ANZ business outlook survey found a net 39 per cent are pessimistic about the economy over the coming year, a 29 point fall since October.

The latest survey is the first of its kind to be taken since the new Labour-led Government was formed.

Headline business confidence was negative across all the five sub-sectors covered, with agriculture the most pessimistic.

All the anti-farmer rhetoric in the lead up to the election gives those in agriculture and related industries good cause for concern and dry weather throughout much of the country isn’t helping.

Dairy, sheep meat and beef prices are all reasonably good but there is a lot of uncertainty about what the government might or might not do.

“Uncertainty around changing Government policy, a softer housing market, and difficulty getting credit are likely culprits,” ANZ chief economist Sharon Zollner said.

“The economy is at a delicate juncture as migration, construction and housing run out of steam as growth drivers. Commodity prices are strong and a fiscal boost will come through in time, but at such times of transition, sentiment is more vulnerable.”

Zollner said while it was the first survey of its type that ANZ had conducted since Jacinda Ardern became prime minister, “it would be too simplistic to ascribe the full move to the change of government”.

“There is a lot else going on. The softening in house price inflation is one obvious factor that shouldn’t be overlooked (particularly its importance for the retail sector), as is the reported difficulty of getting credit.”

So-called “own activity expectations” – what individual owners expect of their businesses remained positive overall, but fell sharply, down 15 points to a net 7 per cent positive. This was also the weakest measure since 2009.

The survey found a net 41 per cent of businesses expected it will become more difficult to obtain credit, the highest since the question was introduced to the survey in 2009.

ASB senior economist Jane Turner said the fall in headline confidence was hardly a surprised, and was typically biased when Labour has been in Government.

“However, the fall in own activity is concerning and if sustained will suggest material downside risk to the economic outlook,” Turner said. . . 

Just as one political poll shouldn’t be taken too seriously, one business survey shouldn’t be cause for panic.

But lack of confidence can become self-fulfilling and the cost of that is an economic slow down.

Businesses need confidence to invest, to take the risk to grow, to employ more staff. Without confidence they hold back on new or bigger investments, they’re much less likely to take risks, less likely to invest more, and less likely to take on more staff.

Governing parties are back pedalling on several of their pre-election policies but until it’s clear what they’re saying and whether that’s what they’ll do, businesses are going to be wary.

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