35.5% of those respondingBy Russ Lynch
expect higher sales this year
A majority of Hawaii businesses believe their capital expenditures, hiring, sales and profits in the next 12 months will be about the same as in the last 12 months or lower, according to a new business confidence survey by the Bank of Hawaii.
But that "more of the same" attitude was not as negative as it might seem, because many businesses said their 1998 results exceeded their expectations or at least matched what they hoped would happen.
And while those who believe 1999 will be better are still in the minority, more of them feel that way than a year ago.
"There is distinct improvement in business confidence this year as compared to last year," said Paul Brewbaker, the bank's chief economist. "Last year at this time, respondents' expectations about the economy were at the lowest point we have seen in the 10 years we have been conducting this survey," he said.
Overall, 35.5 percent of the 942 businesses that filled in the survey said they expect sales in 1999 to be higher than they were in 1998. Profits should be higher this year, said 31.8 percent. Only 15.4 percent said they expect to employ more workers this year and only 23.2 percent said they expect to increase their capital expenditures. However, 60.8 percent said they don't expect hiring to drop and 33.1 percent said they expect to maintain the same level of profitability as in 1998.
More than 25 percent said their actual sales in 1998 exceeded their expectations. More than one-fifth of the respondents, 20.5 percent, said their profits last year were higher than they thought they would be.
While 74.2 percent of the companies said they expect Hawaii's economy through 1999 to be the same as it was in 1998 or worse, 14.2 percent said they expect the economy to improve.
Brewbaker said confidence varies by industry and, as in past surveys, people tended to be more optimistic about their own businesses than they were about their industry. They also were more optimistic about their industry than the economy in general.