Small business confidence in 'robust' pick up
There has been a strong improvement in small business confidence, suggesting the sector will grow this year, the Federation of Small Businesses says.
The lobby group's small business index suggested there had been a "robust" improvement in confidence in the past three months.
It said growth and investment intentions had reached new highs since it began compiling its index in 2010.
It also said it had found "few negatives" in the overall picture.
The FSB said the latest survey readings on job creation, productivity and investment all bode well for small businesses sustaining the economy's growth through 2015.
Businesses view their prospects for the coming months very positively, with nearly two thirds (65.3%) of small businesses aspiring to grow moderately or rapidly in the next three months - the highest figure ever seen by the index.
The FSB said productivity in the sector was increasing compared to the wider economy, something that should be encouraging to policymakers, who have been grappling with the issue of low productivity growth for some time.
However, geographically the mood is very uneven, the group said.
The South East of England continues to dominate business confidence, followed by the West and East Midlands.
But in Wales, confidence and employment fell, and Scotland also reported lower business confidence.
John Allan, the FSB national chairman, said: "The results... are very positive and show the major role that small businesses play in the growth of the UK's economy."