The amount of SMEs that see the current economic climate as an obstacle to business almost halved last year, according to a new study by BDRC Continental.

The survey of 5,000 businesses revealed that 21% of SMEs in Q4 2013 rated the current climate as a major obstacle, down from a rate of 37% in Q4 2012.

Out of all factors tested by the study, the economy was still the biggest obstacle, although some SMEs said that legislation and regulation were greater concerns.

Despite this more positive outlook, applications for finance did not increase, showing that businesses may still be cautious about taking financial risks.

79% of SMEs  in Q4 2013 consider themselves ‘happy non-seekers of finance’ – the highest number to date.

Shiona Davies, director at BDRC Continental, said:

“There is little in the way of frustrated demand… Where applications have been made, there is a clear divide in success rates between on the one hand the larger established businesses or those renewing existing facilities, and on the other the smaller or younger applicants, especially those applying for the first time who are less likely to be successful.”

Overall, 48% of all SMEs said they planned to grow in the coming year.