"Solid" optimism reigns in Alberta despite economic turbulence, BSI shows

    EDMONTON, Sept. 19 /CNW/ - While Alberta businesses no longer subscribe
to the unrestrained optimism held at the height of the province's economic
boom, new data released today shows that a majority of companies surveyed
believe their business will increase in the final quarter of 2008.
    "Given the softening US economy and the turbulence in global financial
markets in 2008, it isn't at all surprising that Alberta business sentiment
has weakened," said Todd Hirsch, ATB's Senior Economist. "Still, sentiment
remains solidly positive. There are many jurisdictions on the continent that
would be quite content with this level of optimism."
    The ATB Financial Business Sentiments Index(TM) (BSI), a joint effort of
ATB and the Western Centre for Economic Research at the University of Alberta,
surveys more than 400 companies throughout Alberta to gauge their opinion and
sentiment for the coming quarter.
    The latest seasonally adjusted index level for the fourth quarter stands
at 128.5 - down slightly from 133.6 in the third quarter, and off
substantially from its peak of 160.7 in the first quarter of 2006. (An index
value more than 100 indicates positive sentiment, and less than 100 indicates
negative sentiment.)
    "In a general climate of economic uncertainty, these results strike a
positive note. What they indicate is that the Alberta economy will continue to
grow in the coming quarter and into the next year at a moderate and
sustainable rate. That is good news," said Ted Chambers, a Research Professor
at the Western Centre for Economic Research.
    The sentiments index for the fourth quarter of 2008 is up slightly in two
of the survey's six sector groupings: wholesale and professional/technical.
Optimism is down slightly in manufacturing, construction, and
transportation/warehousing. All sectors remain in positive territory above the
neutral 100 index level.
    Sentiment was essentially unchanged in Alberta's oil and gas sector,
which was surveyed with the other sectors between Aug. 18th and Sept. 4th,
    "Given that oil prices had dropped some 30 per cent from their peak, and
that gas prices had also nosedived, optimism in the energy patch remains
pretty good," says Hirsch.
    The survey also asked Alberta business leaders how they expected their
activity to develop over the next year, and whether they considered the
economy to still be "booming."
    Three-quarters of Alberta businesses said they expected activity to
increase over the next year, including 46 per cent who felt it would spike by
more than 10 per cent. Some 18 per cent felt activity would stay the same, and
only seven per cent felt it would decrease.
    Regarding the boom, eight per cent of businesses felt the economy is
still booming, 72 per cent felt the economy is "slower than 2006, but still
growing at a healthy rate", and 20 per cent said "the boom is definitely
    The complete report is available at www.business.ualberta/wcer. Future
ATB Financial Business Sentiments Index(TM) reports will be released on the
following dates:

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

    About ATB Financial - ATB Financial is the largest Alberta-based
financial institution, with assets of $24.5 billion. It provides Retail
Financial Services, Investor Services, and Corporate Financial Services to
more than 660,000 Albertans in 244 communities. It provides service through
162 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.

    About the Western Centre for Economic Research - The WCER is a specialty
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

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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