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Business confidence rises to near two-year high in February, Sacci index shows

| Economic factors

Business confidence improved to an almost two-year high last month, although the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which compiles the index, expressed unhappiness over the economy.

Sacci said the budget tabled last month did not do much to quell the concerns of business about the direction in which the economy was moving.

"There is a sense that government still sees itself as the main vehicle to propel the economy to a better performance," it said.

"The standoff in business confidence will continue until the private sector senses a changing business climate."

The Sacci business confidence index (BCI) rose to 92.8 last month from 89.3 in January amid higher share prices, real private sector borrowing, and the rand exchange rate. These levels are, however, lower compared to historic levels of about 103 in 2011.

The chamber said the acceleration in the BCI was surprising and that whether the increase in confidence would generally be supported by economic and business conditions in 2015 was still uncertain.

Five of the 13 subindices including exports, imports, vehicle sales, retail sales, and precious metal prices, contributed negatively to confidence last month.

Eight of the 13 subindices were at lower levels than a year ago and had negative year-on-year effects on the BCI.

Sacci said it was apparent from the budget that there was still a "strong bias" towards social spending. "The social spending imperative is one of the reasons for an inflexible budget," it said. SA has 16.4-million people on social welfare.

The chamber also said rising public sector debt was cause for concern. The debt stock as a percentage of gross domestic product is expected to stabilise at 43.7% in the 2017-18 fiscal year.

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