Confidence amongst Britain’s SMEs has been steadily declining, with many returning to the cautious outlook they had 12 months ago, according to latest research from Hitachi Capital’s British Business Barometer.

The research suggested that businesses are reforecasting their growth ambitions, with almost one in two (47%) SMEs expecting no change to their current business in the next three months.

Only 39% of the 1,021 UK small businesses surveyed said they are looking towards some type of growth, a decrease on the peak recorded six months ago in Q3 2015 (43%).

The survey found that growth ambitions of SMEs within the agriculture sector were at an all-time low, with the number of companies saying that they will strive for growth has dropped by 12%, compared with the same period last year to 13%. Furthermore, the number of businesses in the sector saying they will contract or struggle to survive has increased substantially in a year from 14% Q1 2015 to 22% Q1 2016.

On the other hand, the number of SMEs operating in the construction sector who said they would contract or scale down has fallen significantly from 24% in Q1 2015 to 13% this quarter.

In addition, the research suggested that manufacturing companies are revising their outlook and are striving for some growth, 47% compared with 43% in the same period last year.

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By GlobalData

Gavin Wraith-Carter, general manager at Hitachi Capital Business Finance, said: "Small businesses have reigned in their plans again this quarter, where they are only dipping their toes in regarding expansion and growth. The market has been choppy with potential issues that would have will have dented confidence, particularly the current concerns surrounding the manufacturing sector coupled with the knock on effect of the events in China."