BUSINESS confidence is on the increase, with two reports highlighting the growing perception among owners and managers of an economic revival.
A survey of chief executives of big companies by PwC shows they are more confident now than at any time since 2007. More than half of all executives expect their revenue to grow this year.
Even among the usually more cautious small firms sector, confidence grew steadily during the second quarter, with businesses now more optimistic than at any stage in the past year.
The forward-looking views of business leaders are in contrast to figures earlier in the month that showed the economy had slipped back into recession.
New figures from trade group ISME show its members have positive outlooks on 10 of 12 metrics used to monitor the health of the sector.
The number of companies confident in their business rose 6pc between April and June, while positive expectations for the future have surged by more than a quarter in the past nine months.
Few companies expect to be profitable this year, but fewer expect to book a loss.
An increasing number of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) plan to hire staff, up 16pc in a year.
Confidence in the ability of overseas orders to deliver growth is down, but overall, owners of export-led businesses remain far more positive than negative, with 49pc more firms having good expectations for their trade overseas than those pessimistic about the future.
Despite the strong figures overall, ISME said the retail sector continued to struggle. Employment in the sector is anticipated to decrease in the second half of 2013.
ISME boss Mark Fielding said the survey pointed to a "dual economy" between exports and domestically focused businesses.
"Given our reliance on exports as a primary driver of growth and our exposure to global market developments, the demand from trading partners, especially the UK and EU, is of paramount importance," he added.
PwC's CEO Pulse Survey shows nearly a third of executives have a favourable view of Ireland's economy, up from 22pc a year ago. According to the report, 44pc of companies are now confident in the future of their own business.
PwC's report highlights the perceived skills gap in Ireland, with 60pc of bosses citing the "lack of availability of key skills" as an important business risk.
The consultant's senior partner Ronan Murphy said the report showed Irish businesses were trying to grow, despite ongoing challenges.