Recession fears reduce giving welcome boost to business confidence

Almost half of shoppers plan to rein in their Christmas spending this year, with a sharp jump in the proportion of people worried about the impact on their finances, new research has found.

Business leaders’ optimism about the next year has risen for a fifth consecutive month, returning towards levels recorded immediately before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Institute of Directors’ economic confidence index rose to a reading of -5 in April, from -13 in March and a low of -64 in November.

A monthly sentiment index from Lloyds Bank last week suggested that business confidence was at its highest since May last year. PwC forecasts that the economy will grow by 0.1 per cent this year before returning to 1 per cent growth by the end of next year. Other forecasters, including the Bank of England and the Office for Budget Responsibility, also believe that Britain will avoid recession this year.

The Institute of Directors’ index measures answers to the question: “How optimistic are you about the wider UK economy over the next 12 months?” Its survey found that director confidence in prospects for their own organisations had steadied at a measure of 42; expectations of increasing investment levels rose slightly to 20 and expectations of increasing staff was put at 22, similar to March. Only 25 per cent of members said they believed inflation had peaked, down from 28 per cent in March.

Kitty Ussher, chief economist at the institute, said the investment intentions raised “hope that the economic f