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NEW DELHI, June 18 (Reuters) - Asia's top companies reported a bullish outlook in the second quarter of 2014 compared to the first three months despite worries over the global economy and rising costs, the latest ThomsonReuters/INSEAD Asia Business Sentiment Survey showed.
Of the 124 companies who responded to the poll, none reported a negative outlook for the first time in the survey's history. The ThomsonReuters/INSEAD Asia Business Sentiment Index rose significantly to 74 in the second quarter compared to a 64 reading in January-March.
A reading above 50 indicates an overall positive outlook.
Sentiment among Asian automakers jumped to a two-year high during the second quarter, with two of six respondents positive on the outlook. In the last quarter, all 11 respondents were neutral. New orders and sales increased at four automakers while global economic uncertainty remained the biggest worry for most respondents, which included India's Hero MotoCorp.
Sentiment for the building sector rebounded in the second quarter as half the companies polled reported a positive outlook, helped by an increase in new orders and sales. In the first quarter of 2014 all companies had a neutral outlook. Global economic uncertainty continued to be the top risk.
Currency volatility, rising costs and global economic uncertainty hampered the recovery of confidence for drugmakers, which slipped in the second quarter. Three of five respondents were neutral on their outlook, while two were positive. The participants include India's Lupin Ltd and Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd.
Asia's financial sector was the most pessimistic with sentiment declining in the second quarter compared to the first. Eight of 10 companies reported a neutral outlook as global economic uncertainty continued to pose the biggest threat. Malaysia's Alliance Financial Group took part in the survey, among others.
Food and beverage companies have shown gradual improvement in outlook over the last two quarters with six of 12 companies reporting a positive outlook. Rising costs were a concern for the majority of companies in the survey. Japan's Asahi Breweries and Kirin Holdings were among the respondents.
Concerns over the global economy failed to dampen the sentiment among Asia's property firms with 10 of 17 companies reporting a positive outlook. New orders and sales increased for more than half the firms while about 40 percent expected to hire more people. Australia's Stockland Corp and Ayala Land of the Philippines participated in the survey.
Resource companies reported the most bullish outlook in the second quarter with business sentiment at a three-year high. More than half the 23 companies polled said the outlook was positive with new orders and sales increasing for 11 firms. Australia's Oil Search was among the respondents.
The mood among retailers deteriorated from the preceding quarter with eight of 13 polled being neutral on their forecasts and the remaining were bullish. Rising costs were the biggest concern for the respondents, which included Japan's Seven & I Holdings and Fast Retailing, and China's Galaxy Entertainment.
Asia's shipping industry painted a much brighter outlook during the second quarter, pushing up the reading to a one-year high of 75 from 67 in the previous survey. However, global economic uncertainty remained a major source of concern for the sector. South Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries Co Ltd was among the companies surveyed.
More technology companies were upbeat about their businesses even as global economic uncertainties and rising costs remained major concerns. New orders and sales increased for more than half the 26 respondents which included Japan's Canon, Hitachi and NTT DoCoMo.
** Companies sampled for the survey may change from one quarter to the next. (Compiled by Aditi Shah; Editing by Matt Driskill)