Bay State business confidence gained slightly in March, but barely surpassed "positive" levels, according to a monthly index released by the Associated Industries of Massachusetts.
The organization's business confidence index gained 1.1 points last month to reach 50.1, but was still down 4.7 points from a year earlier.
"This reading, which is about as close to neutral as it could be, continues what has now been three years of fluctuations with no strong pattern," said Raymond G. Torto, global chief economist at CB Richard Ellis Group Inc. and chair of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors. "Employers are responding with caution to mixed messages. We see stock market indices at or near all-time highs, real estate values coming back up, and the U.S. unemployment rate edging down."
While Massachusetts' local economy continues to perform relatively well, there are new causes for concern, including the federal government sequester, banking woes in Cyprus and proposed state tax increases, Torto said.
"The recovery is moving forward, but it is still more of a healing process for the economy than a return to full vigor," he added.
AIM's business confidence index is scored on a 100-point scale on which 50 is neutral.
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