Exports rise 'lifts expectations' for Scottish firms

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Scottish business is expecting to see its fastest spell of growth in nearly four years in the first half of 2018, according to a survey.

The RBS Business Monitor found expectations had been buoyed by faster growth reported in the final quarter of this year.

Expansion is expected to be fuelled by a strong pick-up in overseas business.

Exporters hope to benefit from a weakening pound and the current acceleration in global growth.

However, the survey of nearly 400 Scottish firms suggested that growth will still be modest in the first half.

The monitor suggested inflationary pressures were leading to rising costs for the majority of companies, particularly in tourism.

More than half said they expected costs to rise further during the next six months.

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The survey, conducted by the Fraser of Allander Institute, found that 28% of firms saw an increase in export activity in the three months to mid-December.

That compared with one in five (20%) reporting a decline.

The services sector led the way during the quarter, with a net 17% reporting rising exports, compared with +5% in the production sector.

Businesses were optimistic that the trend would continue, with a net 24% expecting export activity to rise over the next six months.

Meanwhile, 37% of firms reported that business volumes rose over the final quarter, compared with 27% which said business volumes fell.

A net 11% of production sector firms reported a rise in activity, with growth most prominent in manufacturing (+18%).

A balance of 10% of services companies reported rising business volumes, with above average growth in financial and business services (+19%).

However, the survey also suggested a further weakening in investment activity, with only one in five firms increasing new capital investment. One in four said investment fell.

'Firms resilient'

Fraser of Allander director Prof Graeme Roy said: "After a challenging 2017, the final Scottish Business Monitor for the year suggests that firms in Scotland are continuing to remain resilient, with both turnover and the volume of activity remaining positive.

"Exporting firms continue to take advantage of the competitive pound but levels of business investment remain disappointing.

"With the Scottish Fiscal Commission forecasting a weak outlook for productivity in the years ahead, turning around levels of investment in our economy will be vital for long-term economic prosperity."

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