Canadian businesses slightly more optimistic

The Bank of Canada's latest quarterly survey shows most businesses (outside of the Prairies) are feeling good about future sales.
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Canadian businesses have faced some struggles this year, but are cautiously optimistic about their prospects for the coming months, according to the latest survey from the Bank of Canada.

The autumn edition of the Bank of Canada’s quarterly business survey, which polls the senior management of 100 businesses in Canada, showed overall sentiment has moved slightly positive to reach its highest point so far in 2019. The Business Outlook Survey indicator – compiled based on several questions in its survey – currently sits at 0.43 for Q3, up from -0.07 in Q2 and -1.05 in Q1.

Sales have grown marginally slower over the last 12 months among the firms surveyed, with the balance of opinion (the difference in percentage between those responding positively and negatively) sitting at -5%. However, the outlook for future sales is more optimistic, with the balance of opinion 23% positive for sales over the next 12 months and 16% positive for indicators of future sales. A big driver of that optimism is foreign demand for Canadian goods and products, though those hopes are tempered somewhat among several respondents by ongoing trade tensions between the U.S. and China, as well as the potential negative impact of a recession stateside.

However, businesses within the prairie provinces were less hopeful with their future business outlook, due to ongoing struggles in the energy sector. That also came across in hiring intent for the next 12 months, with soft demand for talent in provinces tied to the energy sector cancelling out stronger hiring intent in the rest of the country and sending the balance of opinion trending downward compared to surveys from previous quarters. In B.C. and Central Canada, however, concerns are starting to rise about labour shortages, especially when it came to skilled trades and information technology.

Most businesses in Canada feel that costs outside of labour will either stay the same or shrink, but also expect to marginally raise prices of products sold, passing costs associated with a more competitive labour market and other costs on to their consumers.