FIRMS in the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia are most optimistic about the coming six months, according to the latest quarterly Thomson Reuters/INSEAD Asian Business Sentiment Survey of 84 firms in 11 Asian markets, conducted from Nov 30 to Dec 14 and released on Dec 19.
This was despite the overall business sentiment index staying subdued at 63, just above the previous quarter's three-year low of 58. A figure above 50 indicates a positive outlook.
Said INSEAD economic professor Antonio Fatas: "This confirms the reading of the previous quarter: there is more uncertainty, there are increasing concerns about growth. This doesn't mean there is going to be a crisis over the next quarters, but if there is one, this is an indication that it wouldn't be a large surprise to some."
The chief business risk, cited by a third of respondents, was a global trade war. Other major risks were a slowdown in China and higher interest rates.
Singapore's index was 62, derived from 17 responses, comparable to the previous quarter's reading of 63 from 20 responses.
Firms were most negative in Taiwan, an important node in the global electronics industry, with the country's index coming in at 17, having plummeted from 58 in the previous quarter. Firms in Korea and Japan were also among the most pessimistic.
On a sectoral basis, firms in tech and telecoms reported the bleakest outlook in the survey with a record-low reading of 44.