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UK Business confidence on the increase

Business confidence has increased for the first time in a year across the UK in general, with retail the only sector producing a negative result, according to a new survey.

According to research by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), the Business Confidence Monitor index saw a rise of 4.1 to 13.7 in the period, reversing four consecutive quarters of decline.

Michael Izza, Chief Executive of ICAEW, said: "This quarter's confidence index shows that growth and certainty are returning to the UK economy. Businesses are more optimistic about the future and this is reflected in their forecasts for turnover and profit growth. They are however wary of the reality that the recovery is going to be slow. As a result, there is greater caution over making long term commitments and investment."

Turnover and profit growth have continued to strengthen and are up 3.9% and 3.8% respectively compared to a year ago, according to the research. But growth in exports, a key factor for economic recovery for the government, appears to have levelled off, the ICAEW said.

Businesses reported a 0.9% increase in employment over the past year - a welcome sign for the Government, which has pinned its hopes on a private sector driven recovery.

But the squeeze on consumer spending is likely to continue as the research revealed employees are forecast to receive a 1.7% salary increase on average over the next 12 months.

Customer demand remains a key concern for many firms, the ICAEW said, as nearly half said customer demand is a greater challenge to business performance than a year ago.

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