OSLO, March 3 (Reuters) - Business conditions in Norway’s western oil-producing regions rose sharply in the first quarter, hitting a three-year high as demand for goods and services improved, a survey showed on Friday.
The price of crude oil, Norway’s key export, fell sharply from mid-2014 to early 2016 but has since staged a partial recovery, while non-oil exporters are boosted by a weak crown currency.
First compiled in 2012, the West Coast Current Conditions Index rose by 3.4 points to 65.7 points, the highest level seen since the first quarter of 2014, said polling institute Respons Analyse and bank Sparebanken Vest.
The six-month outlook meanwhile rose 1.1 points to 60.5 points, the strongest since early 2015. And despite some idle capacity, the outlook for investments hit a four-year high as more and more companies seek to grow, the survey showed.
“After several quarters of rising demand, firms now signal an increased desire to invest, which may in turn have a positive impact on economic growth. The upturn is solidifying,” it said.
Rising demand was particularly evident at medium-sized exporters, the survey added, and the most significant improvements came in the Rogaland county, home to many large Norwegian oil firms, including top player Statoil.
The survey covered 700 firms based in the regions of Rogaland, Hordaland, Sogn og Fjordane and Moere og Romsdal. Readings above 50 indicate expansion, while a reading below that level signals contraction. (Reporting by Terje Solsvik, editing by Nerijus Adomaitis)