UK business confidence hits 12-month high amid recovery hopes – business live

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6.57am GMT

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After an extremely tough 12 months, Britain’s services companies are feeling more optimistic about their future prospects, thanks to the UK’s rapid Covid-19 vaccination programme. Service sector confidence jumped in February to its highest level since the pandemic began, according to the latest Business Trends report from accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP.
BDO’s Services Optimism Index rose to 94.13 in February from 86.60 in January, back towards the long-term average of 100.

That’s the highest reading in 12 months for the survey, which covers a range of industries from retail and hospitality to professional services.
BDO’s report suggests that business confidence was rising even before Boris Johnson laid out the four-stage plan to reopen the UK economy, under which non-essential shops could open on April 12,

Related: Step by step: how England’s Covid lockdown will be lifted

“The speed of the vaccine rollout across the UK has given businesses a much-needed shot of relief.”

Related: 20 million people in UK have had first dose of coronavirus vaccine

“With business lifelines extended in the shape of the prolonged furlough scheme, and an extra dose of support provided to hospitality via extensions in business rates relief and the VAT cut to 5%, there is reason to believe this optimism can be sustained as we gradually emerge from the depths of lockdown.”

“The latest rise in the consumer confidence index underlines the resilience of households throughout this third national lockdown,” Kay Neufeld, head of forecasting at the Centre for Economics and Business Research, said.

“With a road map for the gradual reopening of the economy now published, we expect the positive consumer sentiment to further aid in the recovery over the coming months.”

Monday’s TIMES Business: “Growth set for rebound as vaccine raises hopes” #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/uUNnrMaV8u

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