Figures from the Institute of Directors’ ( latest Business Opinion Survey suggest that business confidence in the UK is at its highest levels in four years. The survey, which covers the second quarter of 2004 indicates that IoD members who are more, rather than less, optimistic about their companies’ prospects rose to 46 per cent compared to 38 per cent in the previous quarter’s survey.

When asked whether they felt their companies were performing well, 71 per cent of directors said they were, up from 62 per cent previously. IoD chief economist Graeme Leech said “Business optimism and performance continue to improve and this should feed through into continued employment growth. Around half our members expect employment in their company will increase this year. Only 9% of our members foresee employment in their company falling. As the labour market tightens, upward pressure on wages will be offset to a varying degree by rising productivity, thereby maintaining profitability.”

In a separate survey carried out recently by the institute, 60 per cent of its members said that they thought workers from the ten new EU member states would be able to help make up the UK’s skills shortage and approximately the same number said they would consider employing workers from the new countries. However, the enlargement was not seen as being entirely good for business with two thirds of respondents saying that they felt a larger EU would lead to increased business regulation.

Siemens Financial Services ( further cheer, releasing the upbeat findings of a study into IT investment in the UK. The survey, entitled “Releasing the Pressure” was carried out between December 2003 and February 2004, with finance providers, global corporates and an assortment of third party organisations being questioned. Findings indicate that IT investment, a key barometer for the overall economy, is predicted to see growth of over 5 per cent in 2004 and commercial equipment investment as a whole is expected to exceed that figure slightly.

The company, which provides commercial equipment funding solutions for business, also said that it saw IT leasing in the UK growing by over 5.5 per cent this year, a figure slightly ahead of expected IT investment. Jonathan Andrew, UK managing director of Siemens Financial Services said “As an indicator of a steady recovery of UK plc, this report is encouraging news, although some way behind the IT investment rates predicted by certain analysts.”

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