%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%Confidence among British firms has reached its highest level in at least 22 years amid expectations for rising orders, sales and profits.
The twice-yearly Business in Britain report by Lloyds Bank said optimism has improved in all regions - particularly the South West, North East and Yorkshire and East Midlands and East - as well as in all company sizes and sectors.
Firms also signalled that they intend to boost staff numbers for the second half of this year, while increased capital spending is predicted in construction and manufacturing after sharp upturns in activity.
The survey, now in its 22nd year, canvasses the views of 1,500 UK businesses and tracks the overall balance of opinion, weighing up the percentage of firms that are positive in outlook against those that are negative.
Since the last report in January 2014, the confidence index has increased by eight points to 53%, the fifth consecutive increase for the survey.
This was mainly driven by firms' expectations of increasing profits and has surpassed the previous survey high of 46% recorded in January 1994.
Tim Hinton, managing director of SME and mid-markets banking at Lloyds, said: "This upturn in confidence marks an all-time survey high.
"We hope that it will lead to a further improvement in economic activity for the second half of 2014 to allow British businesses to grow and prosper."
10 biggest companies in the world
Confidence among firms at new high
Wal-Mart Stores, or Walmart, is an American retailer that runs chains of discount department and warehouse stores around the world.
The company was founded by Sam Walton in 1962, incorporated on October 31, 1969, and first traded on the New York Stock Exchange in 1972. It is headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas and has around 8,500 stores in 15 countries, under 55 different names.
Royal Dutch Shell, more commonly known as Shell, is a global oil and gas company headquartered in Holland, but with its registered office in London.
With operations in more than 90 countries, it is active in every area of the oil and gas industry, including exploration and production, refining, petrochemicals, power generation and trading.
Exxon Mobil Corporation, or ExxonMobil, is an American oil and gas corporation formed on November 30, 1999, by the merger of Exxon and Mobil. Its headquarters are in Irving, Texas.
With 37 oil refineries in 21 countries, Exxon Mobil Corporation is the largest refiner in the world.
BP is yet another global oil and gas company, this time headquartered in London. It has operations in more than 80 countries, produces about 3.8 million barrels of oil per day and has 22,400 service stations worldwide.
The name BP is derived from the initials of one of the company's former legal names, British Petroleum.
Sinopec Group is one of the major petroleum companies in China, headquartered in Beijing.
Its business includes oil and gas exploration as well as the production and sales of petrochemicals and chemical fibres.
China National Petroleum Corporation is a state-owned fuel-producing corporation and the largest integrated oil and gas company in China. It has its headquarters in Beijing.
CNPC - the parent company of PetroChina - was created in 17 September 1988 when the government decided to disband the Ministry of Petroleum and create a state owned company to handle all Petroleum activities in China.
State Grid Corporation of China is the largest electric power transmission and distribution company in China, once again headquartered in Beijing.
It has subsidiaries in Northern China, Northeastern China, Eastern China, Middle China and Northwestern China.
Toyota Motor Corporation, more commonly known simply as Toyota, is a multinational automaker headquartered in Toyota, Japan.
The company was founded by Kiichiro Toyoda in 1937 as a spinoff from his father's company Toyota Industries. Its brands include Toyota, Lexus and Daihatsu.
Japan Post Holdings is a state-owned Japanese company that deals with mail delivery and financial services.
It is headquartered in Tokyo and was founded on January 23, 2006.
Chevron Corporation is an American energy company headquartered in San Ramon, California.
It is active in more than 180 countries and is engaged in every aspect of the oil, gas, and geothermal energy industries, including exploration and production, and power generation.