SMALL and medium-sized firms in Yorkshire are more confident about their prospects.

The latest Business Factors Index Figures from Bibby Financial Services showed that firms across the region saw increasing levels of activity during the third quarter of 2012 – while 44% said their business is performing better today than 12 months ago. That compares to the national average of 26%.

The study showed that 49% of businesses in Yorkshire have applied for external funding in the last 12 months compared with 30% in the second quarter.

This resulted in 54% of SME owners in Yorkshire investing in their business – an increase of 29% year-on-year. However, even with the range of Government initiatives launched this year, just 5% of businesses applied for any Government scheme.

The study suggested that the wider UK economy is showing the first sign of growth since the double-dip recession – and that businesses in Yorkshire are already demonstrating a surge in trading activity.

Meanwhile, the CBI’s latest quarterly Trends Survey showed both domestic and export orders among the SME manufacturers fell in the three months to October while production levels continued to contract modestly.

However, firms said output was expected to increase slightly in the coming three months.

Lucy Armstrong, who chairs the CBI’s SME Council, said: “Small and medium-sized manufacturers will be disappointed by the slide in demand during this quarter.

“Production levels have fallen for the second quarter running and profit margins continue to be squeezed as output price inflation fails to match growth in costs.

“There are some signs of improving prospects going forward, with firms expecting to increase output slightly in the next three months and more positive investment intentions.”