Analysis from several financial services firms of business confidence levels points towards an improving picture. Businesses are said to be more optimistic about future growth although they are still cautious about the year ahead.

The rise in confidence levels at the start of this year brings a halt to months of decline and has perhaps been buoyed by news of a strengthening pound and the prospect of Brexit not being as bad for the economy as everyone expected.

While businesses have plans to invest in the future, it is also true that bank lending to businesses fell by £1bn during the month of December 2017. Loans to businesses in the SMEs sector saw a significant drop too falling at their fastest for three years.

Alternative finance, meanwhile, has been the sector to benefit from the continuing sense of caution with businesses reluctant to take on new debts to fund any expansion plans they may have.

Asset finance takes away some of the risk involved in borrowing from banks and allows a business to use its assets to access funding.

Business that rely on importing and exporting into the EU will be watching closely to see what happens over the next 12 months and it is unlikely the mood of caution will be lifted during this period.