UK businesses turn less negative for first time since January – survey

People wearing protective masks carry shopping bags at Oxford Circus, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in London, Britain, June 29, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

LONDON (Reuters) – Confidence among British businesses improved in June for the first time since January ahead of the latest relaxation of the country’s coronavirus lockdown, according to a survey published by Lloyds Bank on Tuesday.

Business confidence rose by three percentage points to its highest level since March but remained deeply in negative territory at -30%, the survey showed.

Slightly fewer companies expected to lay off staff – 41% compared with 44% in May – and the proportion planning a pay freeze edged down.

“While the results suggest the economy may be starting to see some improvement, trading conditions remain difficult for most firms as the majority are still experiencing disruption to supply chains,” said Hann-Ju Ho, senior economist at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

Confidence among construction firms rebounded strongly by 30 points, followed by smaller improvements for retailers and manufacturers while services reported a fall as the hospitality and education sectors continued to face lockdown restrictions.

The survey was conducted between June 1 and June 15, after the reopening of non-essential retailers but before Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on June 23 that bars, restaurants and other consumer-facing businesses could reopen from July 4.

Writing by William Schomberg; editing by Stephen Addison

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