Australian business confidence eased from three-month highs in September but the slight pull-back was accompanied by a sharp rise in sales and higher profits, a fresh survey showed on Tuesday.
National Australia Bank's (NAB) monthly survey of more than 530 firms showed its measure of business confidence dipped to 10 in September, from 11 in August, but still well above its long-term average of 7. Its measure of business conditions improved, however, rising to 7 in September from 5 in August. Its index of profits climbed 2 points to 6, while the index of sales jumped to 13 from 5 in August.
The survey's measure of forward orders was also a bright spot, spiking 9 points to stand at 3 in September.
The outlook for exports soured slightly however, with the index dropping 4 points to -4. But that was after it had leapt 13 points in the previous month.
Employment was soft, but given that the labor market has surpassed all expectations in the past year, a slowdown would not surprise. The employment index dipped 1 point to its lowest reading for the year at 2.
Between sectors, the survey found responses varied widely.
Confidence improved in construction, but deteriorated in mining, wholesale, recreation, transport and utilities.
Yet, as far as business conditions were concerned, mining, construction, finance and retail showed large improvements, while conditions worsened in wholesale and recreation.
NAB noted the survey suggested overall business confidence was solid but a multi-speed economy within Australia was clearly taking shape.
NAB said mining and transport were faring the best among industries, while retail, manufacturing and construction were laggards.
That the mining sector is doing well is no surprise as Australia is going through a record trade boom, thanks to the rapid urbanization in China and India.