Asian business sentiment rebounds in fourth quarter with India most optimistic

Tue Dec 16, 2014 11:05pm EST
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By Tommy Wilkes

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Business sentiment among Asia's top companies rebounded in the fourth quarter to the second-highest level in almost three years, a Thomson Reuters/INSEAD survey showed, helped by a stronger U.S. economy and a plunge in oil prices.

The Thomson Reuters/INSEAD Asian Business Sentiment Index .RACSI increased to 72 in the fourth quarter from 66 in the previous three months. The result was only slightly below the 74 reading of the second quarter which was the highest since early 2012. A reading above 50 indicates an overall positive outlook.

Indian businesses provided the biggest boost to the index, with companies reporting a maximum score of 100 for the third consecutive quarter as they look to new Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speed up economic recovery.

Corporations in China, where worries about a slowdown in economic growth persist, were among the least positive with a reading of 50, coming in below Japan, which is stuck in recession, at 56.

U.S. unemployment fell to a six-year low in November, a signal that the world's biggest economy and a key export destination for Asian companies is healthier and its consumers are growing in confidence.

"The U.S.'s economic leadership is influencing expectations across the world, and the U.S. is really becoming stronger," said Antonio Fatas, a Singapore-based economics professor at INSEAD.

"Asia is a region where there is not massive uncertainty related to political risk. This is a region that grows with the world."

The rosier picture in the United States coincided with oil prices falling to five-year lows, boosting Asian economies dependent on imports of crude.   Continued...

A building under construction is seen amidst smog on a polluted day in Shenyang, Liaoning province in this November 21, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Jacky Chen/Files