SEOUL, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Asia’s top companies were less upbeat about their business outlook in the third quarter of 2013 as concerns about the global economy and rising costs dampened sentiment, the latest Thomson Reuters/INSEAD Asia Business Sentiment Survey published on Wednesday showed.
Global uncertainty on when the U.S. Federal Reserve will taper its $85 billion bond buying program and geopolitical tensions in Syria have spooked markets, dealing a slight to business sentiment.
The Thomson Reuters/INSEAD Asia Business Sentiment Index fell to a reading of 66 in September from 71 in the second quarter. A reading above 50 indicates an overall positive outlook.
The property and building sectors were the most bullish with readings of 100 each. All of the 10 property firms polled painted a rosy outlook, bringing the index to the full mark for the first time since the fourth quarter of 2009.
Eight respondents said new orders were higher while seven said employment levels improved. The Philippines’ Ayala Land Inc was among the companies surveyed.
The confidence level for builders made a sharp rebound, making the steepest gain among all sectors. While all three respondents projected a bright outlook, they said employment levels remained the same as risks loomed about higher costs. Construction materials maker James Hardie Industries was one of the respondents.
Food and beverage companies remained upbeat about their projections, although currency volatility and rising costs remained worries. Five companies had a positive outlook, while an equal number of firms expressed neutral views.
Seven reported an increase in orders while three said they remained the same. Japan’s Asahi Breweries and the Philippines’ Universal Robina were among the participants.
RESOURCES: BOUNCING BACK FROM DIP (INDEX AT 72 VS 66 IN Q2)
The reading among resources companies bounced back from the second quarter, with four firms predicting a better outlook and five holding a neutral view. Six respondents said orders remained steady, while the other three said orders went up. Thailand’s Banpu PCL was among those polled.
The index for automakers in Asia improved for a second consecutive quarter, although global economic uncertainty remained a major risk. Two respondents were optimistic about their outlook, while the other two were neutral or negative.
Fewer technology firms had an upbeat outlook in the third quarter, pulling down the index. Three companies had a positive outlook in the third quarter, while eight had an upbeat view in the second quarter.
Three firms cut employment levels, while the other 10 maintained or lifted the current headcount. Japan’s Toshiba and NTT DoCoMo were among those who joined the survey.
Currency volatility and global economic uncertainty hampered the recovery of the confidence for drug makers, which remained at its lowest level since the first quarter of 2011.
Four respondents were neutral on their outlook, while one was positive. The participants include India’s Lupin Ltd and Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo Co Ltd.
The mood among retailers deteriorated from the preceding quarter, as six out of seven polled were neutral on their forecasts and only one was bullish.
Rising costs were the biggest concern for the respondents, which included Japan’s Seven & I Holdings and Fast Retailing.
The financial sector, along with the shipping industry, was the most negative with its business confidence dropping to its lowest level in three quarters.
All of the 21 respondents were neutral about their outlook, although most of them said sales had remained steady or increased. Alliance Financial Group took part in the survey, among others.
The sentiment in the shipping-related sector suffered the biggest fall as concerns about global economic uncertainty weighed on Hyundai Heavy Industries and other companies. All eight respondents held a neutral outlook despite orders rising or remaining steady.