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Johannesburg - Sacci's business confidence index (BCI) improved by 0.9 index points in March, according to statistics released on Tuesday.

The BCI for March stood at 92.7, up 1.4 index points from February and 2.3 from March last year, the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry said in a statement.

“It is the first time since June 2011 that the BCI is at a better level than the corresponding month of the previous year,” Sacci said.

Sub-indices continued to improve in March, with two turning positive.

“Important sub-indices on real economic activity continued to improve in February with only export volumes declining from a high level in January.”

Sacci said it was concerned about consumers going through a difficult period and experiencing stress from various sources.

Unemployment, rising interest rates, rising debt and inflation were adversely affecting consumers and businesses.

“Some 15 percent of total consumer revenue is derived from own businesses and this revenue stream is dependent on a positive business climate and improving real consumer demand,” the chamber said.

“The relative level of debt together with the cost of servicing debt is a growing challenge in the economy.”

There were no signs so far that the upcoming general election had impacted on business psyche.

“The outcome of the election and the policy positions taken thereafter will no doubt have a profound impact on business confidence as would the emergence of a stronger consumer market and global geo-political developments.” - Sapa