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AAP

2012-12-17

Eds: Not to be used before 0001 AEDT, Monday December 17, 2012

By Caroline Smith

SYDNEY, Dec 17 AAP - Optimism among mid-sized Australian businesses has hit record highs in the lead-up to Christmas, a quarterly survey has found.

Commonwealth Bank's future business index rose to 9.3 in December, from 4.3 in September.

The survey focuses on companies with a revenue of $10 million to $100 million, assessing their outlook on business conditions and challenges, projected revenue, investment plans and how prepared they are to cope with volatile conditions in the next six months.

The index first hit 9.3 in March this year, and was its highest ever score.

Almost half (45 per cent) of the companies surveyed said they were well-prepared for future business conditions, while 31 per cent said they thought conditions would improve in the next six months.

However, they expressed concern about rising energy costs in Australia, and a potential economic slowdown in Asia.

Looking at individual sectors, transport and logistics, business services and information, and media and technology were the most confident.

The least confident included manufacturing, wholesale trade and mining - with the latter reporting a significant drop.

Commonwealth Banks executive general manager of corporate financial services Symon Brewis-Weston said that despite the confident reading, most firms were approaching 2013 with caution.

"We're finding that its something of a wait-and-see period for the mid-market," he said.

"The feeling is that while companies expect a moderate decline in costs and they're feeling more prepared for the future, there is little appetite for investment and major changes.

"Companies are placing less emphasis on growth at the moment and ensuring they have the financial support required for any unforeseen challenges in the future."

The index showed moderate optimism among the states and territories, with Victoria and Tasmania recording steady confidence, both rising to 14 from 6.2.

Meanwhile, New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory were the only regions in decline, both falling to six from 10.4.