IBEC's business sentiment report for the first quarter of this year shows surprising levels of optimism at the start of the year.

The majority of indicators are at their highest levels since the employers group started the survey four years ago.

Sales and order book indicators point towards growth, while one in four managers indicated that they would be hiring new employees in the coming quarter.

Sustained job creation is taking hold in the export sector, the report said.

IBEC also noted signs of recovery in the domestic economy with consumer spending up in the second half of last year.

But the group again warned of the dangers of any more tax increases, saying that any such moves by the Government could hinder the economic recovery.

"The improvement in confidence is predominantly due to recovery in the domestic economy. Consumer spending and business investment made a positive contribution to growth in the second half of last year and CEOs expect this trend to continue into 2013,''' commented IBEC's chief economist Fergal O'Brien.

''The Irish economy is clearly re-balancing and it is very positive to see the sentiment readings for both domestic and export activity in positive territory in the first quarter of this year,'' he added.