By Julie Gordon
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Business sentiment in Canada continues to improve with hard-hit firms becoming more confident that sales will pick up as vaccines roll out, suggesting a broadening of the economic recovery ahead, a Bank of Canada survey showed on Monday.
The central bank's Business Outlook Survey Indicator reached its highest level on record in the summer survey, in part due to base-year effects, but also as positive sentiment became more widespread.
"All but a few firms feel the uncertainty related to the pandemic is behind them," the central bank said.
Canada's vaccination drive has ramped up in recent months, with more than 68% of Canadians inoculated with one dose and more than 35% fully vaccinated, according to Reuters' COVID-19 vaccine tracker.
New infections, meanwhile, have plunged from the third wave peak, allowing many businesses to reopen.
The positive outlook means plans to invest and hire staff are widespread, the survey found. Businesses across all regions and sectors plan to hire, suggesting the labor market recovery will pick up.
Most businesses reported an improvement in their sales prospects from a year-ago, and no firms reported signs of deterioration in demand, the survey found. Still, about 40% of firms have current sales below pre-pandemic levels.
The outlook for foreign sales, particularly to the United States, is robust.
A separate consumer-focused survey found high intentions for spending, likely reflecting pent-up demand, with some people planning to dig into their pandemic nest eggs. Hard-hit services, like restaurants, travel and cinema, could see the biggest boost in consumer spending.
Consumer expectations for home price growth also edged up and near-term inflation expectations were higher.
The BOS survey of 100 firms took place between May 11 to May 28, when COVID-19 cases were falling, though third wave restrictions remained in place in populous Ontario and Quebec.
(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; additional reporting by Fergal Smith in Toronto, Editing by Franklin Paul)