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Australia business conditions, confidence pick up but sentiment still gloomy

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A measure of Australian business conditions rose in September to levels not seen since the coronavirus pandemic forced a nationwide lockdown, though overall levels were still the below long-run average, survey results showed on Monday.

National Australia Bank's NAB.AX index of business conditions rose 6 points to 0 from -6 in August.

The index has come a long way since hitting a trough of -34 in April at the height of the pandemic though it is still nowhere close to the long-run average of +6.

The survey’s measure of business confidence picked up too, but stayed in negative territory, climbing to -4 from -8 in August.

The improvement in conditions was driven by a rise in all three sub-components with trading and profitability in positive territory, likely reflecting improving activity as the economy opens up.

The employment index stayed negative, suggesting businesses were not yet ready to add new positions.

Forward orders rose to -7 while capacity utilisation edged up to 76.9%. This, in addition to still negative confidence, has seen capex stay in negative territory, NAB noted.

Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Sam Holmes

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