BUSINESS confidence in Ireland grew in the first quarter of 2013, but the pace of expansion remained sluggish.
According to a new report from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the Institute of Management Accountants, businesses here showed signs of growing confidence in the first three months of the year.
The global survey of 2,000 finance professionals showed that 31pc of Irish-based workers were "more confident" about the prospects of their organisations, while one-quarter reported a loss of confidence.
The report shows Ireland saw the biggest boost in confidence across most of western Europe.
ACCA Ireland boss Liz Hughes said the report showed, "glimmers of hope for the future".
"Ireland performed surprisingly well in the first quarter of the year, largely a result of business opportunities picking up slightly, after declining through the second half of 2012.
"We are seeing Ireland emerge from the credit crunch with access to growth capital improving almost consistently in the last year and half.
"That trend continued over the last quarter. However, businesses remain cautious and face pressures on cash-flow and orders. Irish business finance professionals also told us that there were fewer investment opportunities at the start of this year than previously.
"Reported FX volatility and inflation are also on the rise, and grew substantially in Q1 2013. All of this has led to slower capacity building by businesses in terms of investment and hiring, but the overall trend is positive," she added.