Covid-19 took a sledgehammer to business confidence, with local firms the gloomiest they have ever been in ANZ Bank's latest survey.
A net 26.7 per cent of firms expect weaker activity for their own business, the lowest reading since the survey began in 1988 and down from 12 per cent who had expected an improvement in the prior survey.
"We're on a very steep slide indeed," said ANZ chief economist, Sharon Zollner.
The final result was worse than the flash reading the bank gave earlier this month which had indicated 12.8 per cent thought things were about to sour.
"Responses received later in the month versus the early-sample results show that we are still on the slide – even with some series at record lows, it seems unlikely we've seen the bottom." About a third of all responses were received in the second half of the month and were more negative, she said.
The survey's own-activity measure typically has a stronger correlation to economic activity.
Firms were also extremely downbeat about the wider economy with a net 63.5 per cent expecting worse times ahead, compared to 19.4 per cent who did in February.
That reading was also worse than the flash result which had pointed to 53.3 per cent in negative territory.
Employment intentions tumbled 24 points to a net 22.5 per cent of firms intending to reduce employment.
Retail was the bleakest. Investment intentions fell 21 points to a net negative 14 per cent. Capacity utilisation - one of the best gross domestic product indicators in the survey - crashed to a net 9.4 per cent expecting capacity utilisation to decrease from a net 9.5 per cent that thought it would increase in the prior survey.
Profit expectations tumbled 29 points to a net 36.8 per cent expecting lower profitability.
"Times are grim. We've never seen such a broad economic shock strike with such ferocity. Firms are right to be alarmed. Both fiscal and policy are leaping into action, but a severe recession is guaranteed," said Zollner.
Earlier Westpac Bank's chief economist Dominick Stephens said he expects the GDP to fall 15 per cent over the March and June quarters but tips a 10 per cent rise in the September quarter. Westpac expects the unemployment rate to reach 9 per cent and that house prices will fall 7 per cent.