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UK business confidence dips, in spite of Brexit progress

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UK economic confidence in the last quarter of 2017 has fallen to one of the lowest levels of this decade, in contrast with the rest of the world, where confidence remains high.

The findings are from the latest Global Economic Conditions Survey (GECS), produced by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants  (ACCA) and the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) and show that in spite of recent progress on a Brexit transition deal, confidence has dropped to one of the lowest readings since the survey began in 2011.

This is in notable contrast to the rest of the world. The US saw confidence rebound strongly in the final quarter of 2017. Overall confidence levels are now at the levels they reached at the start of the year, and remain high by historical standards. This may reflect the potential boost from the recent tax cuts passed by Congress.

The survey showed a positive outlook for 2018, with particular strength in emerging markets. Although China is likely to slow as it strives to reduce risk in the financial sector, India and the rest of Asia are likely to see strong growth.

The biggest concerns for companies are increased costs (cited by 52%), followed by decreased incomes (39%), and then concerns about the negative impact of foreign currency movements (28%).

Narayanan Vaidyanathan, head of business insights at ACCA, said: “Confidence among UK businesses has been extremely volatile since the referendum result, and this quarter’s findings reflect that.

“While hopes have increased for a transition deal which minimises short-term disruption, there are significant concerns about rising costs and exchange rate fluctuations.’

“The UK findings are at odds with a more positive global picture. Economic confidence remained relatively high at the end of 2017 despite a slight dip from the previous quarter, with an improved economic outlook in the US and South Asia off-setting a more cautious mood in China.”

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