Business sentiment and activity indicators ticked down in March, according to the latest ANZ Business Outlook survey.
The results were consistent with the view that the economy would start to struggle more as the lack of tourists reached its seasonal peak and the bounce in retail spending started to dissipate, said ANZ chief economist Sharon Zollner.
The confidence levels remained relatively robust but may have peaked for now, she said.
Compared to February, business confidence fell 11 points to net -4.1 per cent.
Firms' own activity outlook fell 4 points to 16.6 per cent.
Investment intentions fell 4 points to 11.9 per cent.
But employment intentions lifted 4 points to 14.4 per cent and capacity utilisation was little changed at 14.6 per cent.
Inflation pressure remained high with cost expectations rising 1 point to a net 73.3 per cent of respondents reporting higher costs.
A net 47.3 per cent of respondents intended to raise their prices, a historically very high level.
General inflation expectations rose to 1.97 per cent.
When it came to firms' current level of activity compared to a year earlier, construction remained the outlier, still running strong while other sectors were back to par.
"However, there were signs of moderation in the construction sector, with decent falls across a range of activity indicators (particularly employment), while cost pressures continue to build," Zollner said.
The March snap lockdowns had made Business Outlook data a little harder to interpret, she said.
"However, it is consistent with our view that as the demand overshoot wanes and the tourists are missed more and more, the economy will go largely sideways this year.
"The quicker cooling we now expect in the housing market plays into this theme as well."
The vaccine rollout and the subsequent border reopening would be game-changers, but it would not be "click-of-a-switch stuff".
"But there's a path to the new normal, whatever precisely that looks like, and we're on it," she said.
"We'll be keeping an eye on construction for possible bumps in the road."