Market Data

Business confidence rebounds to 13-month high


Business confidence bounced back in the first half of June, increasing by nine points to 37%, the biggest monthly rise since March 2023, according to the latest Lloyds Bank Business Barometer.

The increase was driven largely by rises in firms view of their trading prospects and optimism in the wider economy, despite last month’s interest rate rise.

Business confidence gains were also seen across all four main industry sectors (manufacturing, construction, retail and services). The survey took place before the Bank of England increased the base rate by 50 basis points in June.

For firms’ trading prospects, 55% of firms (up six points) anticipate stronger business activity in the next 12 months, compared with 14% (down one point) expecting weaker outcomes. This results in the net balance increasing seven points to 41%, the first improvement in three months.

Fifty-four percent (up six points) expressed greater optimism about the economy, while 22% (down four points) are more pessimistic. That means the net balance increased by 10 points to 32%, a significant climb from negative 3% seen in November 2022.

Regional insights

Confidence rose in 10 of the UK’s 12 regions and nations. The East Midlands (up 35 points to 52%) and Scotland (up 28 points to 50%) jumped up into first and second places, respectively. Confidence in the North East, Yorkshire & the Humber, the East of England and Northern Ireland are also above the UK average of 28%. London (down 10 points to 33%) and the South West (down one point to 29%) are the only regions to record falls this month.

Hann-Ju Ho, Senior Economist Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking (pictured), said: “It’s encouraging to see business confidence rebounding following last month’s five-point dip to 28%. Trading prospects and optimism have seen a resurgence this month with overall confidence up in all but two of the twelve regions of the UK, which shows positive prospects across the wider economy.

“However, interest rate rises and cost pressures are still felt by many and we await to see the impact of the latest 50 basis point rise in base rate. Meanwhile, expectations for average pay growth, although down slightly this month, appear to have picked up compared with the start of the year and remain elevated relative to pre-pandemic levels.”

Sectors bounce back

Business confidence for firms in the service sector rose to 37% (up 11 points), the highest seen since February 2022. With the recent spell of good weather and a reduction in food and energy prices, businesses in leisure and hospitality may be able reap the rewards in the months to come.

Manufacturing firms’ confidence also increased to its highest since early 2022, rising to 50% (up 10 points) to outperform other sectors.

Paul Gordon Managing Director for Relationship Management, Lloyds Bank Business & Commercial Banking said: “The boost in confidence and hiring intentions is a welcome sign that businesses are managing well in what continues to be a challenging environment.

“It’s particularly pleasing to see that for both services and manufacturing, two sectors which have been hardest hit in recent years, there is real optimism for trading prospects and growth. However, wage pressures continue to be above pre-pandemic levels and firms need to be mindful of this and ensure that costs are evenly distributed and managed closely.”

Following the Lloyds Bank Business Barometer results, Mike Randall, CEO at Simply Asset Finance said, “Confidence has risen this month as business leaders keep economic pressures at bay. It’s evident that it will take a lot more to knock SMEs off balance, and we are already seeing resilient business owners adapting to the new normal.

“While some are still apprehensive about what the future holds, the majority of leaders know this shouldn’t come at the cost of their business output – with many pivoting their business models to counteract economic disruption. Small businesses are vital to the economy, creating jobs and opportunities for millions across the country and ready access to finance remains vital to support trading. We stand with the UK’s optimistic business leaders and will continue to ensure that support, such as innovative lending strategies, are in place to help propel them forward.”