The RMB/BER business confidence index underwhelmed once again. The index rose by a minuscule two points to 40 in the first quarter of this year. Data from Stats SA showed that the economy managed to expand a mere 0.3% in 2016. Although growth should improve in the year ahead, a lack of confidence will limit the extent of the improvement. Since 2008, the index, produced by the Bureau for Economic Research, has only been above the neutral 50 mark four times — a pattern consistent with an economy continuously treading water. The latest results indicate that only four out of every 10 respondents were satisfied with business conditions. Business confidence edged higher in three sectors, but eased in the remaining two. In the retail trade sector, the first-quarter increase more than countered the fourth-quarter decline. Confidence also crept higher in the wholesale and motor-trade sectors, but declined in building and manufacturing.Of concern is that, since 2015, the index has remained in...

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