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TRI-STATE BUSINESS CONFIDENCE INDEX CLIMBS; INDEX OF SMALL FIRMS SHOWS NICE GAIN

 JERSEY CITY, N.J., May 20 /PRNewswire/ -- The Business Confidence Index of mid-size firms in the tri-state area is at its highest level, approaching the 1988 base year index of 100.
 The regional index, established by National Westminster Bancorp (NYSE: NW) five years ago, is a composite of future expectations and present performance. This index, which begun from a base of 100 in 1988, jumped to 97 from 91 last year. It had been 86 in 1989, 81 in 1990, and 77 in 1991.
 The index's rise is primarily attributed to business optimism in New Jersey. While Connecticut, Westchester, Long Island and New York City all recorded indices of between 91 and 94, New Jersey's index soared to 106, the highest level in the index's five-year history and up considerably from level of 90 a year ago. New Jersey's index started a four-year climb from a low of 76 in 1989. The index had been 82 in 1990 and 89 in 1991.
 "New Jersey has a broader diversification of industry types, which is helping the state recovers from the recession," said Peter Radford, NatWest Bancorp's chief economist. "It was generally thought that New Jersey would lead the tri-state area in recovery, and the survey seems to support that."
 Confidence Rises for Small Businesses
 Of the firms with annual sales between $5 million and $250 million included in the survey, those between $5 to $9.9 million in sales recorded a sharp gain. In last year's survey smaller firms had a confidence index of 76, which was considerably less optimistic than larger firms, those between $25 million to $250 million in sales, which had an index of 120. This year the gap narrowed considerably, with larger firms dropping to 105 and smaller firms rising to 91. Firms between $10 million to $24.9 million in annual sales had indexes of 96 last year and 97 this year.
 "Smaller firms were hit harder by the recession and were obviously slower to recover," says Peter Radford, NatWest Bancorp's chief economist. "Their rebound is good news for the region."
 Small Firms a Vital Indicator of Region's Economy
 According to Radford, the tendency is to view smaller firms as younger entrepreneurial firms laying a foundation for the region's growth. "Our survey shows them in a different light," he says. The survey found that 84 percent of smaller firms have been in business 20 years or longer, compared to 78 percent of larger ones. "Smaller firms are, it seems, senior members of the metro region's business community -- a vital indicator of the economy's health and of changes to it."
 NatWest's seventh annual survey of CEOs was conducted by Northstar Research Associates Inc., of New York.
 National Westminster Bancorp is a regional bank holding company with $22 billion in assets. Its main subsidiaries are NatWest N.J. and NatWest USA, which operate more than 260 branch offices in New York and New Jersey.
 -0- 5/20/93
 /CONTACT: Tim Connolly of National Westminster Bancorp, 210-547-7533 or 212-602-2511/
 (NW)


CO: National Westminster Bancorp ST: New Jersey, New York, Connecticut IN: FIN SU: ECO

TM-WB -- NY004 -- 0660 05/20/93 10:10 EDT
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Date:May 20, 1993
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