ALMOST nine out of 10 small and medium-sized businesses in the UK are expecting trade volumes to increase or remain stable over the next three months, according to the latest HSBC Trade Confidence Index.
The quarterly HSBC Trade Confidence Index is the biggest global index of its kind – covering 3,500 trade-orientated businesses in 12 markets.
It reveals that more than a third of businesses in the UK have identified Western Europe as the biggest growth opportunity followed by Greater China (16%), Eastern Europe (12%) and the US (7%).
Conversely, Western Europe, including the UK has been identified as a key area of growth for 29% of traders in India.
Encouragingly, a fifth of UK businesses expect their need for trade finance to grow this quarter as they look to expand their operations and a third of businesses anticipate the global economy to grow ‘slightly’ in that time frame.
Despite these causes for optimism, the majority of UK traders are still concerned by fundamental business issues, with fluctuating exchange rates (56%), the lack of product demand (45%) and transportation and storage costs (30%) seen as the leading risk factors associated with trade.
Stuart Nivison, HSBC Europe head for trade and supply chain, said: "The sense of doom and gloom has clearly passed and it’s heartening that the number of UK traders who expect their trading volumes to increase over the next quarter is four times greater than those who are expecting a contraction.
"It is also encouraging that UK businesses see China as offering fertile ground for growth in the next three months, the renewed fervour will have been helped by the Chinese government stimulus package and trade missions launched earlier this year.
"The index does highlight one cause for concern and that remains the volatility in the value of sterling and exchange rates. Businesses are currently viewing this as a greater threat to business growth than lack of product demand. We would urge all businesses that are concerned by fluctuations to speak to their banks in order to make the most of the current trading environment."