Optimism among Britain's business leaders hits record levels


Optimism among Britain’s business leaders hits record levels as nation takes a major step out of lockdown

  • Finance chiefs at leading companies are expecting a strong recovery in profits over the next 12 months 
  • At the same time expectations for hiring and investment have reached their highest levels since 2015 
  • The UK can also look forward to a return to office life by the late summer 

Optimism among Britain’s business leaders has hit record levels as the nation today takes a major step out of lockdown. 

Finance chiefs at leading companies are expecting a strong recovery in profits over the next 12 months, with earnings expectations at the highest level for seven years, a survey found. 

At the same time expectations for hiring and investment have reached their highest levels since 2015, Deloitte found. 

A new dawn?: Finance chiefs at leading companies are expecting a strong recovery in profits over the next 12 months

A new dawn?: Finance chiefs at leading companies are expecting a strong recovery in profits over the next 12 months

The UK can also look forward to a return to office life by the late summer, according to the survey of 100 chief financial officers, which included more than 60 FTSE 100 and 250 bosses. 

The report came after the FTSE 250 index, seen as a reflection of the real UK economy, hit record highs of 22,251, and the FTSE 100 rose to the highest level since February last year. 

The stock market surge was expected to continue as nonessential shops and outdoor hospitality re-opened in England after a 97-day lockdown, unleashing £5billion of spending in the first week. 

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The vaccine rollout, coupled with significant pent-up demand, is expected to turbo-charge the recovery. Yesterday just seven coronavirus deaths were reported nationwide, the lowest level since early September. 

The potential for a summer spending spree drove stocks in major chains to their highest level for close to five years, while hedge funds have been unwinding short positions in the likes of Mitchells & Butlers, The Restaurant Group and Marks & Spencer. 

Ian Stewart, Deloitte’s chief economist, said: ‘Combined with a successful vaccine rollout and a greatly improved global backdrop, we are seeing a turbo-charged surge in business optimism. 

‘Having come through the deepest downturn in 300 years, UK businesses are firmly focused on growth.’ 

The bright outlook has tipped many companies away from ‘defensive strategies’ such as controlling costs, and towards expanding and growing profits, Deloitte said. 

The survey also revealed a ‘sharp decline’ in the number of finance chiefs rating economic uncertainty as high or very high, down from 71 per cent in December to 46 per cent in March. Tomorrow official figures are expected to reveal a 0.8 per cent increase in GDP in February



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