Business conditions edged higher in March but remain at subdued levels, pushing business confidence to its weakest point since the September federal election, according to a private survey.
The National Australia Bank monthly business survey showed business confidence fell to positive four points in March, from seven points in February and nine points in January.
Confidence is now below its long-run trend and at its lowest post-election level, NAB chief economist Alan Oster said.
"It appears as though firms are responding to the ongoing sluggishness in business activity, which has not quite reflected the exuberance of firms in past months," Mr Oster said.
"The stubbornly high Australian dollar, uncertainty over the global economy and the potential for significant ‘belt tightening’ in the upcoming budget, could all have contributed as well."
Mining is still the least confident industry, he noted, while bright spots are emerging in services, construction and retail.
Meanwhile, business conditions edged up to positive one point in March, from zero in February and positive five points in January.
"Business conditions rose only slightly in the month and are still pointing to a sluggish recovery in business activity," Mr Oster said.