MUMBAI, June 19 (Reuters) - Optimism among Asia's top companies gathered momentum in the second quarter despite lingering concerns about the global economy and rising costs, the latest Thomson Reuters/INSEAD Asia Business Sentiment Survey published on Wednesday showed.
The Thomson Reuters/INSEAD Asia Business Sentiment Index climbed six points to 71 in June, its highest level in five quarters and the third consecutive quarterly rise, suggesting the rebound from a drop in the three months ended last June and September may be here to stay. A reading above 50 indicates a generally positive outlook.
Of the 91 companies that participated in the poll, 43.9 percent were positive about their outlook, while 53.8 percent were neutral. A tiny 2.2 percent reported a negative outlook.
FINANCIALS: GATHERING MOMENTUM (INDEX AT 78 VS 70 IN Q1)
The upbeat mood among financial companies gained strength, driving the index to its highest level since the first quarter of 2011 when it stood at 83. Nine participants reported a positive outlook, while seven were neutral. Most said the global economy was the biggest risk. Taiwan's Yuanta Financial Holdings Co Ltd and Malaysia's AmBank participated in the survey.
PROPERTY: BEST AMONG ALL SECTORS (INDEX AT 83 VS 75 IN Q1)
The index for property companies rose to its highest since the fourth quarter of 2010, with seven of the eight respondents saying they saw an increase in orders. Six companies said uncertain economic conditions posed the biggest risk to their outlook. Vista Land & Lifescapes Inc of the Philippines were among the participants.
TECH: OPTIMISM IMPROVES (INDEX AT 75 VS 67 IN Q1)
More technology companies were upbeat about their businesses even as global economic uncertainties, rising costs and foreign exchange volatility were their major concerns. Eight participants were positive on the outlook while the remaining eight were neutral. Respondents included Japan's Hitachi Ltd, SoftBank Corp and Toshiba Corp, Taiwan's Acer and Globe Telecom Inc of the Philippines.
SHIPPING: STEAMS AHEAD (INDEX AT 80 VS 50 IN Q1)
Sentiment among shipping companies turned sharply upbeat, helping the sector register its best showing since the first quarter of 2012. Three out of five participants were positive on the outlook while two were neutral. South Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries Co Ltd was among the participants.
AUTOS: BUMPY ROAD (INDEX AT 56 VS 50 IN Q1)
The coast is not clear yet for automakers to hit the accelerator. While two participants were positive, six were neutral and one was negative, indicating ongoing risks from economic uncertainty and currency swings. In the earlier survey, all nine participants were neutral.
One company in India, where the sector is battling falling sales, said delays in payments by customers had increased. Indonesia's Astra International and Indian motorcycle maker Hero MotoCorp Ltd were among the participants.
FOOD: COOLS FROM RECORD HIGH (INDEX AT 75 VS 88 IN Q1)
Confidence among food and beverages companies came off the previous survey's record high as currency volatility and rising costs posed risks. But the outlook still looked firmly upbeat with two respondents reporting an increase in orders while an equal number said they remained the same as in the previous quarter. Japan's Asahi Breweries and Kirin Brewery were among those polled.
DRUGS: LOWEST SINCE Q1 2011 (INDEX AT 60 VS 63 IN Q1)
Currency volatility and rising costs weighed down the outlook for drugmakers. Four respondents were neutral, one was positive and there were none with a negative outlook. While two companies reported an increase in orders, three said they remained at the same level. Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd , Daiichi Sankyo Co Ltd and Indonesia's Kalbe Farma took part in the survey.
RESOURCES: RISING COSTS TAKE TOLL (INDEX AT 66 VS 73 IN Q1)
The outlook for resource companies was dented by global economic concerns, rising costs and volatile currencies. While six participants were upbeat about their prospects, nine were neutral and one negative. Eleven respondents said employment levels were the same as the previous quarter, three said employment had fallen while two said they had added jobs.
Indonesia's Bumi Resources, Asia's biggest thermal coal exporter, and Australia's Oil Search Ltd were among the respondents.
RETAIL: REBOUNDS SHARPLY (INDEX AT 69 VS 50 IN Q1)
The index for retail companies climbed the most after shipping as three participants reported a positive outlook, compared with none in the previous survey. Five were neutral and no one was negative. Rising costs and the economy were the prime concerns for the respondents, which included Japan's Fast Retailing Co Ltd and Taiwan's President Chain Store Corp.
BUILDING: GOING STEADY (INDEX UNCHANGED AT 50)
All four companies polled reported a neutral outlook, with new orders or sales at the same level as in the previous survey. While two companies cited uncertain economic conditions as their biggest worry, two said there were other risks.