Asia business sentiment edges up in Q1, global growth weighs

SINGAPORE, March 20 Tue Mar 19, 2013 11:01pm EDT

SINGAPORE, March 20(Reuters) - Asia's top companies, especially those in the export engines of China, Japan and South Korea, are wary about their business outlook, while Southeast Asia is outperforming as a result of strong local consumption, the latest quarterly Thomson Reuters/INSEAD Asia Business Sentiment Survey shows.

Global economic uncertainty ranks as the chief business risk across all sectors and all countries, as it has for the past year and a half, and is mainly responsible for the cautious sentiment despite a flood of global liquidity benefiting most economies.

The Thomson Reuters/INSEAD Asia Business Sentiment Index rose to 65 in March from 63 in December, when it edged up by 1 point from the September survey. A reading above 50 indicates an overall positive outlook.

Business sentiment in Southeast Asia's $1.5 trillion economy was mostly optimistic, thanks to government-driven investment in infrastructure and robust domestic spending. Malaysia and the Philippines were the most positive with readings of 100 each. (Reporting by Anshuman Daga in Singapore; Additional reporting by Ranjit Gangadharan in MUMBAI and Janeman Latul in JAKARTA; Editing by Daniel Magnowski and Alex Richardson)