Q1 performance among SMEs was at a six-year high in 2014, according to the Bibby Financial Services Business Factors Index.
The survey of 4,000 invoice finance clients gauges turnover, with sector-specific analysis of clients in manufacturing, construction, transport, wholesale and business services.
It was introduced at the lowest ebb of the economic downturn – meaning the latest result is the highest Q1 result and the second-highest quarterly result of all in the past six years of the data series.
Particularly strong manufacturing performance took the sector to an index basis of 131.2, with the wholesale sector also performing well at 112.3.
Construction (79.7), transport (97.4) and business services (94.4) all failed to hit three figures in Q1 2014, but the average reached 101, just slightly more than the 100.3 reported in Q1 2012, and much stronger than Q1 2008, when the total index stood at just 90.4 points.
David Postings, UK chief executive at Bibby Financial Services, said: “The Business Factors Index provides a clear indication of the rate of recovery being felt by UK businesses.”
He added that an increasing number of businesses are turning to invoice finance as a way of releasing funds locked up in unpaid invoices – and that this is an indication that business leaders are still encountering “closed doors” at the banks.
Mr Postings concluded: “At this stage of recovery, we need to nurture and stimulate activity – not prevent it.”