Business confidence in Scotland rose 15 points during February to -17%, according to the latest Business Barometer from Bank of Scotland Commercial Banking.
Companies in Scotland reported higher confidence in their own business prospects month-on-month, up 16 points at -11%.
When taken alongside their views of the economy, up 15 points to -22%, this gives a headline confidence reading of -17%.
The Business Barometer questions 1,200 businesses monthly, with the overall ‘balance’ of opinion weighing up the percentage of firms that are positive in outlook against those that are negative.
When it comes to jobs, a net balance of 4% of businesses in Scotland expect to reduce staff levels over the next year, down 24 points on last month.
Across the UK, overall business confidence rose in February as both governments announced their ‘roadmaps’ out of lockdown.
Confidence increased by nine points to 2%, the first net positive reading since March 2020. Firms’ economic optimism also jumped 12 points month-on-month to 2%.
Fraser Sime, regional director for Scotland at Bank of Scotland Commercial Banking, said: “The rise in confidence of Scottish businesses is a real positive and we hope to see this continue as the vaccination rollout accelerates, and we work towards the easing of lockdown restrictions and the reopening of the economy.”
Confidence increased across all four broad industry sectors to the highest levels since March 2020.
After a soft start to the year, manufacturing jumped by fourteen points to 5%, while construction rose eight points to 7%.
Confidence in retail extended nine points to 3%, while services advanced by ten points to 1%, led by broad-based improvements in the subsectors.
Hann-Ju Ho, senior economist for Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “The uplift in business confidence and its entry into positive territory after nearly a year suggests that firms are cautiously pinning their hopes on economic revival in the future and the continued success of the vaccine rollout.
“In the coming weeks, announcements in the budget and prospects of an easing of lockdown restrictions will hopefully help to bolster the recovery in business confidence as the economy starts to reopen.”
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