BUSINESS confidence in the North-East rose four points during November to seven per cent, according to the latest Business Barometer from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

Companies in the North-East report higher confidence in their business prospects at 19 per cent. When taken alongside their views of the economy, this gives an overall confidence of seven per cent.

Businesses’ hiring intentions show that a net balance of one per cent of businesses in the region expect to hire more staff during the next year, down 18 points on last month.

Across the UK, overall confidence rose three points to nine per cent as firms’ optimism about the economy rose 10 points to seven per cent, although their confidence in their own prospects dropped three points to 12 per cent.

The Business Barometer questions 1,200 businesses monthly and provides early signals about UK economic trends both regionally and nationwide.

Kelly Green, regional director for the North-East at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “To see the overall confidence of businesses on the rise is extremely encouraging.

“In tandem, seeing the increase in confidence within a business’s own prospects is a positive trend we hope will continue into, and throughout, 2020.

“We committed to lending up to £700million to North-East businesses this year to help firms grow, upscale and maximise upcoming opportunities and we look forward to continuing our support into the new year.”

Across the region, a net balance of 16 per cent of businesses said they felt that the UK’s exit from the European Union was having a negative impact on their expectations for business activity, up 12 points on a month ago.

Businesses in the West Midlands once again showed the most confidence, at 24 per cent, ahead of London at 20 per cent, and East Midlands at 14 per cent.

Those in Scotland were the least confident, with an overall confidence of minus six per cent, 15 points below the national average.

Overall business confidence improved in manufacturing, retail and services and stayed broadly steady in construction. The largest increase was in the retail sector, rising six points to 21 per cent, while the construction sector remained high at 16 per cent despite a slight decline of two points.

Sentiment in the manufacturing sector rose to a four-month high of 10 per cent, while services confidence also increased for a second month, by four points to four per cent.

Hann-Ju Ho, senior economist for Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “The third consecutive increase in overall business confidence is positive for the UK as economic optimism reaches the highest level since January.

“While concerns about the impact of the UK leaving the EU continued to ease slightly, hiring intentions remain broadly stable and it will be interesting to see how this trend continues towards the end of 2019 and into the start of next year.”