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Business confidence improves, continues to show tenuous...

Business Maverick

Africa, Business Maverick, Politics

Business confidence improves, continues to show tenuous grasp on reality

Like so many other indicators (share prices, for instance), the authoritative measure of how confident businesses are about the future continues to climb, even as those taking the measurements caution that a recovery isn’t the same thing as a rebound.

One way to interpret the Business Confidence Index (BCI) figures released today is this: businesses are very nearly as confident about the future as they were during the end of the boom years that came to such a crashing halt towards the end of last year.

Remember those days? The super-cycle was going to see an endless rise in commodity prices, stock market value growth was considered unstoppable and lending money to people with no security, no income and no prospect of ever having an income was the fast track to a promotion.

The SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry did its best to stress that a return to those days is not yet at hand, regardless of what the BCI believes. “Given the slow economic global recovery and low inflation and even deflation in the US, Japan, China and a number of other economies, it becomes apparent that markets may be too optimistic about the strength of the recovery of the global economy,” the body said in its official statement on the figures. “In its October 2009 World Economic Outlook, the IMF indicated that the pace of recovery is slow, and activity remains far below pre-crisis levels in some economies.”

Everybody knows, or at least everybody should know, that economies will either grow back to pre-crisis levels slowly, or that there will be mini-bubbles that burst along the way. Yet a lot of indicators continue to ignore this seemingly obvious fact, pricing for spending levels that won’t be attained for several years.

Then again, the current global downturn was caused by trying to substitute science for sentiment, wasn’t it? Perhaps the market is smarter than we give it credit for.

Read more: SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry

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