Canadian business confidence drops for second straight quarter

Tue Nov 13, 2012 11:43am EST
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By Claire Sibonney

TORONTO (Reuters) - Business confidence in Canada fell in the third quarter, the second decline in a row, as sentiment deteriorated to levels of a year earlier, the Conference Board of Canada said in a report on Tuesday.

The organization's index of business confidence dropped 5.5 points from the second quarter to 92.3. In the first quarter of 2012, it stood at 101.8.

The survey reflects fragile business and investment sentiment globally as fears about Europe's debt crisis have flared up again, while the U.S. budget impasse threatens to push the world's largest economy back into recession.

The Conference Board said that capacity utilization weakened sharply from the second quarter and was the most significant factor weighing on the index.

Only 32 percent of business leaders surveyed reported that their businesses are operating at, or close to, full capacity. This was the lowest capacity utilization rate since the beginning of 2010, early on in the economic recovery.

"Low capacity utilization will put downward pressure on future investment and economic growth," the Conference Board said in a statement.

The results painted a dimmer picture than official data from September that showed Canadian industry boosted its capacity utilization in the second quarter, with the often-struggling manufacturing sector making as much of a contribution as non-manufacturing.

The Bank of Canada watches the data for any signs of overheating. It says the economy as a whole is operating close to capacity, with a very small output gap, helping the case for an eventual increase in interest rates.   Continued...