Economy has flat-lined, survey reveals

Property and finance are two of the bright spots in an otherwise sluggish economy, a new business survey has found.

The survey, conducted by NAB, found that conditions in April were similar to those reported in March.

“In trend terms, the recent upward trajectory of conditions remains intact and is broadly at levels consistent with average rates of activity over the history of the survey,” it said.

However, when comparing the components of business conditions – trading, profitability and employment – all weakened throughout April.

“Changes in conditions varied considerably across industries in the month, with the recovery in the ‘bellwether’ wholesale industry proving short-lived and dropping back into negative territory,” the survey said.

Construction conditions also suffered but remain positive overall, while mining was less negative in the month.

Employment conditions deteriorated in April, down 2 to -2 points, with the trend holding steady at soft levels. The average of the series is +1 point since 1997.

Trend employment conditions are now best in finance, property and business services at +8, and construction at +4, but weakest in transport and utilities at -17, and mining at -14.

The survey also showed business confidence was relatively unchanged in April.

“Interestingly, falls in confidence were confined to a small number of industries – professional services and construction,” the survey said.

“While less negative than in the past, confidence in mining remains the weakest, along with finance/property/business.

“Until confidence lifts significantly, it is difficult to see a sustained economic recovery developing – to date, rate cuts have not appeared to do much,” the survey noted.

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