Fears over Brexit and energy prices have faded for some business finance chiefs.
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Finance executives at top British firms have reported the sharpest rise in optimism since late 2020 and the recent upheaval in the global banking sector has not dented the mood, a quarterly survey by Deloitte showed on Monday.
The difference between chief financial officers who were more optimistic about their businesses' prospects and those were less optimistic stood at 25 percentage points, having run below the long-term average reading of -2 percentage points throughout the last year.
"Crucially, finance leaders report little change in credit conditions, suggesting that March's events in the global banking system have not affected the pricing and availability of credit for UK corporates," Deloitte Chief Economist Ian Stewart said.
The balance was the highest since the roll out of vaccines for COVID-19 boosted hopes among CFOs in late 2020.
Worries about Brexit and the surge in energy prices had faded for many CFOs, Stewart said.
A big majority of CFOs expected to see a significant growth in capital spending on artificial intelligence (AI) over the next five years and two thirds said AI would help raise Britain's weak productivity growth.
The survey of 64 CFOs - 11 of them from FTSE 100 firms and 24 from FTSE 250 companies - was conducted between March 21 and April 3.
(Reporting by William Schomberg, Editing by Kylie MacLellan)