Asian firms were the most optimistic in Q4 2020, said INSEAD that recently released the results of the Thomason Reuters/INSEAD Asian Business Sentiment Survey.
The outlook for Asian companies in the next six months jumped to 62 this quarter — the highest since Q4 of 2019 — from 53 in Q3, according to results of the survey of 101 companies across 11 Asia Pacific countries . A reading above 50 indicates a positive outlook.
"There's a sense of optimism going forward," said Antonio Fatas, Singapore-based economics professor at global business school INSEAD. "Things are getting better but they are getting better with still a dose of uncertainty.”
The effect of the crisis is very different across sectors, he added, noting the weakness in the transport sector due to curbs on global travel.
The biggest risk remain the persistent cases of the coronavirus as well as the possible scarcity of vaccines in parts of the globe, according to survey results.
While the US and the UK have started vaccinating their populations, few Asian countries expect to get significant amounts of coronavirus vaccines in coming weeks.
In terms of the outlook for the next six months, some 44% of the companies polled were positive, up sharply from 28% in Q3 and nearly 8% in Q2.
In addition, about 58% of the firms said they did not hire or lay off people in Q4 while a fifth said staffing levels were lower.
This was similar to numbers in Q3, compared to 62% of firms indicating job cuts in Q2.
"While I still see some uncertainty, the numbers are good," said Fatas. "It looks like a recovery that is taking speed and where more businesses feel confident."
Companies polled for this latest survey included India's Housing Development Finance Corp Ltd, Japanese car maker Suzuki Motor Corp and Thai electronics company Delta Electronics (Thailand) PCL.