A measure of Chinese businesses' confidence regarding economic conditions edged up in the first quarter, reflecting guarded optimism about the world's fourth largest economy despite inflation and policy tightening concerns.
The business confidence index reached 140.6 in the first quarter, up from 139.6 in the last quarter of 2007, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Tuesday.
"Most business managers are still confident and have positive expectations about the current and future economic situation," the statistics agency said on its Web site (www.stats.gov.cn).
Among business managers surveyed, 56.0 percent of respondents were optimistic about the current situation in their sectors, while, separately, 61.1 percent thought their business would
remain in good shape, the agency said.
Companies involved in the construction, transport, telecom and catering sectors were more confident during the first quarter than in the previous quarter, while the expectations of
property and retail firms worsened.
The bureau surveys 19,500 enterprises of all types to compile the index, which is meant to represent firms' views on the overall economic environment and macroeconomic policies.
The agency said on Monday that another measure of the conditions under which firms are operating, the business climate index, fell sharply to 136.2 in the first quarter, down 7.4 points from the fourth quarter of last year.
ING economists on Tuesday revised down their forecast for China's first quarter GDP growth, due next week, to 10.5 percent from 11.0 percent, noting that the business climate index closely tracks the economy's real performance.
"We expect GDP growth to have slowed due to the disruption of activity in January from the severe snowstorms and a narrowing in the net export contribution to growth," ING's Tim Condon said in a research note.