Business confidence is now back at the level was when the Jacinda Ardern-led Government came to power in September 2017, according to the latest ANZ Business Outlook.
"The New Zealand business sector is feeling increasingly upbeat," said ANZ chief economist Sharon Zollner.
"Business confidence is the highest since late 2017 – albeit still negative!"
The full-month November ANZ Business Outlook survey was more positive than the preliminary data, with growth indicators including own activity expectations and headline business confidence lifting as the month went on, Zollner said.
It showed a solid increase versus October.
Excellent vaccine news may have had something to do with the lift seen across the survey in November and, "very likely the spending vibe associated with the still-buoyant
housing market", she said.
Construction was by far the most positive sector. However, there was a mix of ups and downs in the survey components over the month.
The services sector was finding the going easier and showed improvements across the
board, Zollner said.
Retailers were experiencing stronger activity than a year ago but remained very wary about the outlook.
Manufacturers were doing okay but costs were high, and so were pricing
Agriculture was by far the most pessimistic sector relative to history, and most
of its surveyed answers were weaker than October, she said.
Investment, employment and export intentions remain particular weak spots.
"Importantly businesses were also more upbeat about the conditions in their own firms," said Westpac senior economist Satish Ranchhod.
"While not at historically high levels, the closely watched own activity gauge points to a rebound in activity since the lockdown. That's been seen across all sectors, with a particularly strong lift in conditions in the construction sector."
Plans for investment and hiring were broadly steady in November but were well off their lows from earlier in the year, he noted.
"The number of businesses planning on increasing prices over the coming months has picked up strongly and is back at average levels," Ranchhod said.
"However, expectations for inflation over the year remain muted at 1.5 per cent (that's up from their Covid-related lows, but still well below the RBNZ's 2 per cent target)."
ASB senior economist Jane Turner said data reinforced her view that further OCR cuts were not required.
"The economy is recovering and there are early signs of inflation pressures starting to pick up (albeit from very weak levels)," she said.
"Nonetheless, we would like to see further gains in employment and investment intentions over the coming months to be comfortable that the current economic recovery can be sustained through 2021."
Zollner also sounded a note of caution about the year ahead.
"Monetary and fiscal policy have undoubtedly done their jobs this year. But it's
worth remembering that both work by bringing forward spending from the future," she said.
"There's no free lunch, and they need to be used judiciously. The true underlying
momentum of the economy should become clearer over the next few months as
the impact of one-offs fade, but the case for further life-support measures is
becoming less clear by the day. And that's certainly something to celebrate."