Birmingham firms have called for a period of stability as they look to juggle thinner order books with an unexpected increase in confidence, according to a study published today.
A "remarkable degree of resilience" is evident among companies despite the continued uncertainty in the automotive sector, the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry said.
The latest quarterly economic survey comes before tonight's BCI's annual banquet at the ICC, in which, president Ian Squires will outline his vision for city business over the next ten to 15 years.
Debbie Walsh, head of BCI policy, said: "Given the uncertainty in the automotive sector, high level of confidence shows a remarkable resilience among manufacturers in Birmingham and Solihull."
She said confidence in both profitability and turnover is high, but the overall picture was very confused. "On the one hand we have high confidence and successful companies are reporting increased orders. However, on the other there is a growing number who are reporting thinner order books and this is an unwelcome trend."
And she added: "Because of this volatile situation, we would prefer the economy to remain steady.
"Any increase in interest rates, will rock the boat in a very delicate situation for all elements of business."
The survey revealed that in the home market, the number of companies reporting sales increases dropped from 39 per cent in the last quarter of last year to to 37 per cent.
There was also a higher number reporting decreased sales (36 per cent compared with 18 in the previous quarter).
Although those expecting to increase orders was up from 30 to 33 per cent, an increasing number (30 per cent compared with 20 per cent) were expecting them to decline.
Those expecting the situation to remain constant fell from 50 per cent to 37 per cent.
Figures for companies increasing export sales slumped to 35 per cent from 55 per cent, but the picture for advance orders was slightly more encouraging.
Those experiencing fuller order books increased from 38 per cent to 43 per cent - although the same number reported a decrease.
Firms confident that turnover would improve went up from 62 per cent to 67 per cent and 67 per cent, compared with 52 per cent, expected profitability to increase.
Meanwhile, more companies were prepared to invest in themselves.
Forty-two per cent, against 23 per cent in the previous quarter, said they were preparing for invest in equipment over the next three months.
The biggest pressure for manufacturers to raise prices was in the cost of raw materials while competition remained the most common area of concern, following by exchange and business rates.