The Mood of the Boardroom survey adds to the soft data pointing to a lift in investment and hiring over the year ahead.

Other surveys of business sentiment have been telling a similar story for some time. But the hard data, from Statistics New Zealand, has yet to bear them out. Business, in short, has not yet put its money where its mouth is, especially on the investment front.

The great majority of respondents, 72 per cent, expect their revenues to grow this year - though more in the second half than the first. And 50 per cent expect to undertake more capital expenditure, while only 13 per cent expect to cut it back. The net balance expecting to increase information technology spending is similar, 38 per cent.

Respondents are also upbeat on employment, with 49 per cent expecting to increase staff numbers over the coming year and 16 per cent expecting to reduce them.

This is in line with the National Bank's monthly business outlook survey which has shown investment and employment intentions rising steadily for more than a year now, to the point where hiring intentions are at an eight-year high and investment intentions are above their historical average.

But the national accounts released last week showed investment in plant and machinery fell in the March quarter, while imports of capital goods also declined. And bank lending to the business sector is shrinking, by 8 per cent over the past year.

On the employment front the evidence is more mixed.

Official jobs data recorded an unexpectedly strong 1 per cent rise in employment in the March quarter. But NZIER's quarterly survey of business opinion, which allows analysts to compare respondents' declared intentions for the coming three months with their reported experience three months later, continued to report labour shedding, despite intentions to hire. Brian Fallow