Business

Survey: Increase in Asian firms' confidence

BEIJING: Business sentiment at Asia's top companies rose to its highest in almost two years in the first quarter of this year, buoyed by positive economic signs from the US and China that underpinned improved global demand, a Thomson Reuters/Insead survey showed.

The Asian Business Sentiment Index, representing the six-month outlook of 96 firms, rebounded to 70 for January-March from 63 three months prior. A reading over 50 indicates a positive view.

During the quarter, the US and China, two top destinations for Asian exporters, reported a slew of upbeat economic data that was far better than expectations.

"Optimism about the US economy, lack of immediate crisis in China and lack of bad news in Europe... have reduced some of the immediate risks," said economics professor Antonio Fatas at global business school Insead.

REBOUNDED

Sentiment in export-oriented Malaysia rebounded the most, with its sub-index jumping 20 points to a three-year high of 75, as most respondents reported an increase in business volume.

Sentiment also surged in the Philippines, a sub-index of 88 making it the most optimistic country in Asia.

In other export-driven Asian countries, such as Taiwan, Singapore and Thailand, corporate sentiment improved significantly too, while China and India recorded a slight decline from the previous quarter.

"Stronger-than-expected export numbers have provided quite a relief for those economies, at least more than they have for China or India which are more domestically oriented," said Mr Santitarn Sathirathai, head of emerging Asia economics at Credit Suisse here.

Despite the broader improvement in sentiment in the region, uncertainty over US President Trump's policies, US dollar rate and demand from China were still seen as the biggest risks to Asian companies' outlooks. - REUTERS

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