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BMO Small Business Confidence Report: Canadian Business Owners' Optimism Drops Slightly From Six Months Ago

- Pullback in confidence reflects the economic slowdown due to inclement weather - BMO Economics

TORONTO, ONTARIO -- (Marketwired) -- 04/10/14 -- According to the semi-annual BMO Small Business Confidence Report released today, Canadian business owners' confidence in the state of the economy and their business prospects dropped slightly compared to the latter half of 2013, but is still up from a year ago.

The BMO Small Business Confidence Report is designed to produce an index score that measures the level of confidence small business owners have in the economy and their business prospects based on a series of key indicators, including their predictions for performance, economic outlook, growth expectations and plans for investment. As a single-figure snapshot of small business confidence, the current index score would register at 65 out of 100 - down slightly from last fall (70 out of 100), but up from 59 out of 100 a year ago.

The report revealed an upturn in confidence between the spring and fall of 2013, likely reflecting the weaker Canadian dollar, stronger U.S. economy and solid GDP growth in the second half of last year.

While the confidence score has dropped slightly over the past six months, the majority of business owners across the country share a positive outlook for the year ahead, with those in British Columbia and Alberta recording the highest score.

"With the U.S. economy experiencing an uptick, Canadian companies could benefit from looking beyond traditional markets to find new buyers for their products and grow their business," said Steve Murphy, Head, Canadian Commercial Banking, BMO Bank of Montreal. "With impressive growth continuing in emerging economies - such as China, India, Brazil and south of the Canadian border - it's important for business owners to tap into these markets as they represent another avenue for business success."

BMO Small Business Confidence Index Scores


----------------------------------------------------------------------------
OUTLOOK                             NATIONAL   BC   ABPRAIRES   ON   QC  ATL
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Confidence Index
 Score            Spring 2014             65   69   70     61   67   58   63
                  ----------------------------------------------------------
                  Fall 2013               70   74   73     60   70   70   68
                  ----------------------------------------------------------
                  Spring 2013             59   64   59     54   59   57   62
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

2014 - A Better Year for Businesses: The majority of business owners across the country share a positive outlook for the year ahead.


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                                Overall  B.C.   AB  PRAIRIES   ON   QC  ATL
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Believe 2014 will be better for
 business                            56%   68%  68%       55%  57%  42%  43%
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Believe 2014 will be worse for
 business                            17%   15%  19%       30%  13%  16%  26%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

View on the Economy: Nearly half of Canadian business owners believe the economy will be better in 2014.


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                                Overall  B.C.   AB  PRAIRIES   ON   QC  ATL
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Expect the economy to be better
 in 2014                             47%   61%  56%       52%  49%  26%  44%
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Expect the economy to be worsen
 in 2014                              9%    8%   8%       15%   9%   9%   9%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Growth Prospects: The number of businesses that expect their company to grow next year is nearly 10 times that of those who expect to see their company shrink.


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                                Overall  B.C.   AB  PRAIRIES   ON   QC  ATL
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Expect business to grow in 2014      44%   49%  51%       44%  46%  34%  50%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Expect business to shrink in
 2014                                11%   12%   6%       24%   7%  14%   9%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Investing in 2014: More than one-quarter plan to invest in their business this year.


----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                Overall  B.C.   AB  PRAIRIES   ON   QC  ATL
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Plan to invest more in 2014          28%   27%  31%       30%  31%  25%  21%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Plan to invest less in 2014          18%   14%  12%       24%  16%  29%  12%
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Small business owners can take advantage of BMO's Online Banking for Business platform, which can assist them in making important foreign exchange transactions effectively. "BMO's Online Banking for Business allows organizations to manage all aspects of their treasury needs - including global cash management to foreign exchange services, investments, loans, and trade finance - all from a user-friendly home page," added Mr. Murphy.

For more information on BMO's cross-border cash management solutions, please visit our website or contact a local BMO branch representative.

Results cited above come from a Pollara telephone survey with 502 Canadian business owners, conducted between March 7 and March 24, 2014. The margin of error for this survey is +/- 4.4 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

About BMO Financial Group

Established in 1817 as Bank of Montreal, BMO Financial Group is a highly diversified financial services organization based in North America. The bank offers a broad range of retail banking, wealth management and investment banking products and services to more than 12 million customers. BMO Financial Group had total assets of $593 billion and more than 45,500 employees at January 31, 2014.

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