Business sentiment is at its highest level since early 2007, according to a survey by KBC Bank Ireland and Chartered Accountants Ireland.

The organisations' Business Sentiment Index shows steadily increasing sentiment since late 2012 as companies begin to gain confidence about the direction of the country's economy.

The latest figures, which are based on the responses of over 440 people in senior positions in various businesses, also show a gradual increase in activity over the past year as well as a growth in business confidence.

 The figures suggest a steady - rather than surging - return to growth, according to KBC Bank Ireland, with the country's economy still at the early stages of recovery.

"There is a strong sense in the survey that the Irish economy is still at a fairly early stage of its recovery path but many companies feel that they are at a more advanced point," said Chartered Accountants Ireland chief executive Pat Costello.

"They express concerns about quite a wide range of matters, suggesting attention needs to turn to a range of structural issues that may determine how strong the upswing may be."

KBC Bank Ireland's chief economist Austin Hughes said it was particularly encouraging to see domestically-focused companies report an improvement in demand, which was also reflected in recent jobs growth.

However he said despite the rise in confidence and activity, companies were still treading carefully as they seek to gain momentum.

"While companies are more confident in their thinking, they are still cautious in their actions. Output and hiring are rising solidly rather than spectacularly," said Mr Hughes.