Seeds of recovery in financial sector, claims research

Business confidence stops plummeting among financial
services firms, according to research released today.

Joint research by CBI and PricewaterhouseCoopers shows that a
quarter of respondents said they are more optimistic about their business
situation than 3 months ago, compared with 22 per cent who said they were less.

This balance of plus 3 compares favourably with minus 22
recorded in March 2001. This was the biggest fall in business confidence in
financial services firms for more two years.

Employment in financial services rose over the past three
months, despite there being expectations of a fall. The numbers are expected to
increase at a similar rate over the next three months.

Business volumes have unexpectedly stopped growing however.
A balance of plus 26 was recorded in March but in this survey the balance is
minus two. There is marked contrast between sectors with building societies and
insurers reporting increases in volumes while banks, fund managers and traders
reported significant falls over the past three months.

More firms expect business to rise over the next three
months than expect it to fall. A total 135 companies responded to the survey.

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