Despite a drop in confidence among small and medium sized businesses for the year ahead, the finance and insurance sector remains comparatively buoyant, according to the latest Sensis Business Index (SBI).
The index, for which 1000 small and medium business managers and proprietors were interviewed, revealed 51 per cent of business owners feel positive for 2015 compared to 53 per cent in September's SBI, while 24 per cent are more pessimistic.
The findings correlate with recent Roy Morgan figures, which said business confidence had plunged to its lowest level since August 2011 and much lower than the four-year average of 118.
In the finance and insurance sector, 57 per cent felt confident about their prospects in the year ahead, while 11 per cent were concerned.
The sector also remains optimistic over sales growth.
The report also noted a widening gap between metropolitan and regional businesses, with lower confidence in the regional businesses contributing to the overall fall in confidence.
Confidence across the states varied, with Tasmania and Victoria leaping ahead, while South Australia and Western Australia also went up.
NSW experienced the greatest fall in confidence, while ACT, Queensland and the Northern Territory also saw a decline.
Sensis CEO John Allan said: "Regional Australia is doing it touch. Confidence levels vary across the states, but in general, regional businesses are significantly less confident than their metropolitan counterparts about the coming year."