The data for September paints an optimistic picture, as year-over-year revenues rebounded following a dip in August. Notably, more than half (53%) of businesses reported a profit in the previous month, marking a significant improvement from the low point of 40% in July.
What’s even more encouraging is the reduction in concern about rising interest rates. It declined from a high of 87% in the fourth quarter of FY23 to 79% in the first quarter of FY24. Consequently, there has been a surge in the demand for additional finance, reaching the highest level since July 2022, at 16%.
In tandem with this increased appetite for finance, loan stress has diminished considerably. Only 6% of SMEs anticipate difficulties in meeting their loan repayments, marking the lowest level for this year.
The SME Sentiment Tracker, conducted by the esteemed business market research firm Fifth Quadrant in collaboration with Ovation, monitors the sentiment of more than 400 small and medium enterprises each month.
Sentiment surrounding the Australian economy appears to be on an upswing, reaching its highest point since May 2022. This positive outlook has translated into confidence that businesses are well-insulated against the looming threat of a recession in Australia over the next 12 months, with over two-thirds (69%) sharing this sentiment.
The Fifth Quadrant business confidence index remains robust at 99, mirroring the recent surge in recruitment activity. Currently, 1 in 4 (23%) businesses are actively seeking to fill job vacancies.
However, despite the uptick in recruitment activity over the past two months, 55% of those in the hiring process find it more challenging to identify suitable candidates in the first quarter of FY24 compared to the same period a year earlier.
Managing Director of Fifth Quadrant, James Organ, summarized the findings by saying, “In summary, although concerns may linger, this month’s data displays a positive picture for SMEs. The August results found a bullish confidence among SMEs despite challenges, and the September results have vindicated this with increased profitability and greater confidence in the Australian economy. Concerns remain about fuel and energy costs – and worries about interest rates are far from over – however, the data suggests a general sense of optimism amongst SMEs as we emerge from the winter months.”