Survey results for foreign sales prospects remain positive, though at low levels, and suggest that export sales growth will pick up modestly. Firms based their outlooks on sustained foreign demand, especially from the United States, and the low Canadian dollar. Still, firms anticipate global trade headwinds (e.g., protectionist measures and geopolitical tensions) and related uncertainty will hold back their US and other foreign sales. Shifting from more bullish expectations in 2018, most respondents anticipate the US economy will grow slowly, with some citing a drag from US–China trade tensions.
The balance of opinion on investment in machinery and equipment is unchanged and slightly above its historical average (Chart 3). It continues to be supported by foreign and domestic demand. Whereas services sector firms had stronger intentions in recent surveys, more goods-producing firms outside the energy sector now plan to increase capital spending. Some businesses said they intend to invest in information technology, automation and specialized equipment.