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A survey by Ulster Bank reveals that companies in Northern Ireland experienced a significant increase in business activity and confidence due to strong growth in their order books last month. The survey, which assesses various aspects of the economy such as staffing levels, exports, and new orders, is considered a reliable indicator of economic performance.

According to the bank’s chief economist, Richard Ramsey, optimism among local firms was at its highest in 32 months due to the surge in business confidence. He stated that this was the biggest surprise in the latest survey. Ramsey attributed this renewed optimism to the launch of new products and higher orders.

The impact of political developments on sentiment will become apparent in February’s survey, according to Ramsey. Three out of four sectors – manufacturing, services, and retail – reported an increase in business activity in January with only construction experiencing a decline. The positive sentiment was evident across all four sectors and was particularly notable for manufacturing firms.

Manufacturing firms experienced an increase in domestic demand leading to the first rise in new orders after eight months. Services and construction firms also took on more staff last month with only retailers reducing their staffing levels for the first time since more than a year ago. Overall, the survey suggests that Northern Ireland’s private sector had a positive start to 2024.

In conclusion, Ulster Bank’s survey highlights that companies in Northern Ireland saw a notable increase in business activity and boosted confidence due to strong growth in their order books last month. The renewed optimism among local firms is attributed to new product launches and higher orders. The impact of political developments on sentiment will become apparent in February’s survey while three out of four sectors – manufacturing, services

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