Businesses in south and mid Wales 'stronger than last year'
Many businesses in south Wales are in their strongest position since the recession, a study has suggested.
South Wales Chamber of Commerce's quarterly survey found exports and productivity were up compared to 12 months ago and future orders were in a "healthy state".
The survey, which covered south and mid Wales, consulted 548 companies.
The picture was less promising in mid Wales, where fewer firms had seen sales increases compared to 2012.
Companies in that area also reported difficulty finding staff with the right skills.
The survey monitored firms' performance in the three months to December 2013.
Although not many extra workers were employed in the past year, companies said they had become more productive and were expecting this to bring greater profits in 2014.
The chamber produces the survey each quarter, which it says acts as a "barometer" for the health of the Welsh economy.
Of the firms surveyed, 85% reported improved or consistent UK sales compared with 75% at the start of the year, while the overseas exports figure was 84%, up from 76%.
Chamber director Graham Morgan said: "Our final survey for 2013 is our strongest yet with sales and export figures in particular at the highest levels we have seen for many years, and order books continuing to track sales upwards.
"Businesses are no longer simply trying to weather the conditions of the economic storm of the last few years but are actually expecting to increase their profits and grow over the next 12 months."
He called for more help for businesses to access markets in other parts of the UK and Europe.
Mr Morgan added: "A co-ordinated approach is required that incorporates the Welsh tourism industry to increase the flow of visitors from the affluent south east of England and continental Europe that will open up new opportunities for Welsh companies to do business in these regions."