Businesses expect weaker sales in 2013

Businesses expect weaker sales but greater profits in the first three months of 2013.

The latest Dun and Bradstreet (D&B) National Business Expectations Survey shows that sales expectations for the March quarter of 2013 have fallen to an index level of 21, down from 26 for the December quarter, but above its long-term average.

Index scores reflect the net percentage of businesses expecting sales to increase in the quarter.

Dun and Bradstreet economic advisor Stephen Koukoulas said the figures suggested businesses were finishing the year on a relatively positive note.

"Overall business conditions remain solid, driven by a rise in net sales and profits during the September quarter, he said.

However, expectations for the quarter ahead are patchy, with a weaker outlook for employment and moderate sales.

Dun and Bradstreet's selling prices index dropped seven points to five, its lowest index level since the survey began in 1988, which indicates businesses expect a smaller than normal increase in prices across the economy.

But the profits index rose four points to 24, its highest level in eight quarters, while the capital investment index rose two points to 17.

Dun and Bradstreet CEO Gareth Jones said the rise in profit and investment expectations was encouraging.

"Lower interest rates are likely to be a key factor influencing capital investment expectations, while on the profits front, other input costs rather than stronger sales, are likely to be impacting expectations."

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