Business sentiment rose in April as the deferred Brexit deadline increased companies' confidence, according to the latest Economic Pulse Survey from Bank of Ireland. 

However the month's reading was down year-on-year - with investment plans still well behind where they were before the Brexit vote. 

"The double miss with respect to Brexit - with the April deadline being missed and the March 29 deadline before that being missed - and the extension in terms of Article 50, that's all provided a little bit of a sense of relief and helped lift the business mood this month," said Dr Loretta O'Sullivan, chief economist with Bank of Ireland. 

However she added that the change appears to be a short-term one, with companies' broader outlook remaining unchanged. 


"When we asked a question about medium-term expectations and what firms are planning for in growth over the next 1-3 years, there the numbers stayed pretty much the same," she said.

"About three in five firms intend on expanding their business - down a little on the January figure and well off what it was before we had the referendum on Brexit. So that's telling us that firms are still cognisant that Brexit is a threat, and they are thinking about the implications," the economist said. 

Meanwhile, consumer sentiment remained broadly unchanged - but was well down year-on-year - as more households said they were holding back on spending due to uncertainty about the economy. 

"Consumers are worried about the economy," Dr O'Sullivan said. "There's quite a nervousness there, and we're seeing that starting to translate into buying sentiment there." 

Generally consumer sentiment is quite important to business sentiment - so it may seem odd to have the two on somewhat different paths. But Dr O'Sullivan suggests that it is really just a case of consumers catching up with the business side in terms of thinking about the potential risk that Brexit poses. 

"We've had a situation over the last couple of months where consumer sentiment has really nose-dived and it's effectively treading water now," she said. "This is coming on the back of nervousness about the economy, households beginning to realise this is a serious thing and reacting to that.

"We're going to need to see some sort of an improvement in the picture around Brexit to prompt some response," the economist added.