Alberta business sentiment rebounds after six-month slide, BSI shows



    EDMONTON, June 24 /CNW/ - A positive outlook appears to be returning to
the Alberta business world after two quarters of economic volatility had
prompted province-wide sentiment to slide, according to the latest ATB
Financial Business Sentiments Index(TM) (BSI).
    The BSI surveys companies throughout Alberta to gauge their opinion and
sentiment for the coming quarter. Expectations for the third quarter of 2009
rose to 107.0 after two straight quarters saw the index dip under 100. The
index in the second quarter of 2009 sat at 99.5. (An index value more than 100
indicates optimism, and less than 100 indicates pessimism.)
    "The index's modest improvement suggests perhaps that Alberta businesses
are feeling more reassured that stability has replaced volatility, and that
outright optimism might not be far off," said Todd Hirsch, ATB's Senior
Economist.
    At 107.0, the seasonally adjusted index level for the third quarter of
2009 is down from the third quarter of 2008, when the index stood at 133.6.
    The BSI, a joint effort of ATB and the Western Centre for Economic
Research at the University of Alberta School of Business, surveyed 408
companies between June 1 and June 14.
    The sentiments index is down slightly in two of the six sectors measured
(construction, manufacturing) and up in the remaining four
(professional/technical, transportation/warehousing, wholesale, and oil and
gas). Oil and gas companies remain pessimistic about their immediate economic
outlook, though, with a sentiment reading of 92.5.
    The complete report - available at www.business.ualberta.ca/wcer - also
shows that businesses' hiring intentions have improved slightly.
    "Alberta unemployment may rise a bit more through the summer, but what
employers are telling us is that the worst of the recession may be behind us.
Hiring intentions are rising modestly for companies in five of the six
sectors, suggesting broad stability in the labour market," Hirsch said.
    Ted Chambers, a Research Professor at the Western Centre for Economic
Research, said the construction industry's responses to the survey are
particularly intriguing. That sector recorded negative sentiment (69.2) but
positive hiring intentions (123.3).
    "This may indicate that despite having less business, construction firms
are taking an opportunity to staff up in anticipation of better times ahead,"
Chambers said.
    In the medium term, survey results suggest that fully seven in 10 Alberta
businesses expect activity to grow over the next 12 months. Some 43 per cent
expect activity to increase by more than 10 per cent, while 27 per cent expect
it to increase by less than 10 per cent. Some 21 per cent expect their outputs
to remain stable, while nine per cent expect them to drop.
    "The number of businesses that expect business activity to increase is up
dramatically compared to the last two surveys. We need to keep in mind that
those businesses are operating from a position of decreased capacity, but this
is still an important indicator that suggests the Alberta economy has turned a
corner," Hirsch said.
    The next ATB Financial Business Sentiments Index(TM) report will be
released on September 18, 2009.

    About ATB Financial - ATB Financial is the largest Alberta-based
financial institution, with assets of $26.5 billion. It provides Personal and
Business Financial Services, Investor Services, and Corporate Financial
Services to more than 670,000 Albertans in 244 communities. It provides
service through 164 branches and 133 agencies, telephone and Internet banking,
a Customer Contact Centre, and Automated Banking Machines. ATB Financial was
established in 1938 and has been a provincial Crown corporation since 1997.
This year, it was named one of Canada's 50 Best Employers by Report on
Business Magazine, one of the 75 Best Workplaces in Canada by the Great Place
to Work Institute, and one of Alberta's Top 40 Employers by Mediacorp Canada
Inc.

    About the Western Centre for Economic Research - The WCER is an applied
research centre within the University of Alberta School of Business. The
centre monitors the performance of Western Canada's economy, its policies and
programs, and implications for business enterprises. Drawing on a wide range
of expertise, recent work of the WCER has included analyses of the Alberta
resource economy, Western Canadian international trade, the effects of free
trade agreements, barriers to trade and the role of small business in the
West.





For further information:

For further information: Todd Hirsch, Senior Economist, ATB Financial,
(403) 974-5023, e-mail: thirsch@atb.com; Jason Brisbois, Chief Economist,
Western Centre for Economic Research, School of Business, University of
Alberta, (780) 492-4104, e-mail: wcer@ualberta.ca


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