'Feel-good' economy making comeback in Alberta, Business Sentiments Index shows

    EDMONTON, June 19 /CNW/ - Optimism is on the rise in Alberta's business
world, according to new data released today by ATB Financial and the Western
Centre for Economic Research.
    The ATB Financial Business Sentiments Index(TM) surveys more than 400
companies throughout the province to gauge their opinion and sentiment for the
coming quarter. The Index for the third quarter of 2008 stands at 141.1 - up
from 130.5 for the second quarter of 2008, and 124.7 for the first quarter.
(An index value more than 100 indicates positive sentiment, and less than 100
indicates negative sentiment.)
    "Coming out of 2007 and early this year, business attitudes were
decidedly less cheerful. But the 'feel good' economy seems to be making a
comeback in Alberta," says Todd Hirsch, ATB Financial's Senior Economist.
"Most remarkably, business sentiment in the province appears to be improving
in an environment where sentiment throughout the U.S. and much of Central
Canada is deteriorating."
    Hirsch said the increase in optimism is likely related to the significant
rise in oil and natural gas prices since the beginning of 2008.
    The sentiments index for the third quarter of 2008 is up in three of the
survey's six sector groupings: oil and gas, construction, and
    The strongest rebound in sentiment was among respondents in the oil and
gas industry. That grouping shot up to an index value of 161, more than
doubling the reading of 74 looking into the second quarter. That is the
strongest increase displayed by any sector in the 11 quarters the Index has
been tracked. Very strong oil and gas prices during the survey period (May 26
to June 9) are credited for lifting the sentiment in the energy sector.
Seasonal factors also affect the index, such as the anticipation of the summer
drilling season following the lull during the spring thaw.
    Business sentiment for the third quarter slipped slightly in the
manufacturing and wholesale sectors of the economy. The professional/technical
sector was essentially unchanged.
    The Business Sentiments Index also reveals a growing cleavage between
attitudes in the north and south of the province. Sentiment in northern
Alberta (including Edmonton and Red Deer) posted an index value of 148.7,
considerably higher than the index value of 133.5 in Calgary and southern
Alberta. Over the 11 quarters in which the index has been tracked, sentiment
in northern Alberta has typically been higher; however, the gap between north
and south is now at its widest (15.2 index points).
    The overall 141.1 reading for the third quarter of 2008 is down from a
strong reading of 152.5 in the comparable third quarter of 2007.
    Recently ATB Financial and the Western Centre for Economic Research at
the University of Alberta's School of Business renewed their commitment to
publishing this important measure of Alberta's economic pulse. Future
ATB Financial Business Sentiments Index(TM) will be released on the following

    -   Friday, September 19, 2008
    -   Thursday, December 18, 2008
    -   Thursday, March 19, 2009

    About ATB Financial - ATB Financial is the largest Alberta-based
financial institution in Canada with assets of $23.3 billion. It provides
Personal and Business Financial Services, Investor Services and Corporate
Financial Services to more than 660,000 Albertans in 244 communities. It
provides service through 158 branches and 134 agencies, telephone and Internet
banking, a Customer Contact Centre and Automated Banking Machines.
ATB Financial was established in 1938 and is a provincial Crown corporation
since 1997. For more information about ATB Financial, visit www.atb.com

For further information:

For further information: Todd Hirsch, Senior Economist, ATB Financial,
(780) 974-5023, e-mail: thirsch@atb.com

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