The Northern Ireland economy showed unexpected signs of improved performance in February, an Ulster Bank survey suggests.
Every month the bank surveys about 200 firms, asking about things like employment, new orders and exports.
In February, firms reported their first rise in output and new orders in 10 months.
Ulster Bank’s Richard Ramsey said the survey could be summed up in one word – “improvement”.
“All 10 indicators of local business conditions improved in February relative to the previous month,” he added.
The survey also showed business confidence reached its highest level since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Ramsey, who is the bank’s chief economist, said the improvement was recorded ahead of the unveiling of the Windsor Framework, so “we may see further rises in sentiment in the coming months if it is accepted more universally than the Northern Ireland Protocol was”.
In the UK as a whole, recent economic performance has been a little better than forecast, helped by a fall in some energy prices.
On Friday, official figures suggested the UK economy expanded by 0.3% in January, rebounding from a sharp fall in December.
Higher school attendance and the return of Premier League football after the World Cup helped boost the figure.
However, economic output was no higher than it had been in January 2022.
Official figures suggest that Northern Ireland entered a recession in the third quarter of 2022.
The figures for the fourth quarter of 2022 are due to be released at the end of this month.
Source: British Broadcasting Corporation