Canadian companies are bracing themselves for a difficult year of slower sales growth, shrinking employment and tight borrowing conditions that will further undermine the economy, two Bank of Canada surveys indicate.

The bank’s quarterly survey of 100 companies finds the mood among Canada’s business community decidedly dark — the most pessimistic in more than a decade — in the face of the global financial crisis and economic slowdown.

And a separate survey of senior loan officers found widespread tightening of lending conditions that will restrict businesses’ ability to finance opera­tions, expand and create new jobs.

Companies say they expect sales growth to slow, prices of products to increase at a slower pace and their work­force to shrink.

“Business sentiment has deteriorated markedly since the autumn survey, as the effects of the international finance crisis and the weak global economy intensified and spread to domestic demand,” the Bank of Canada reported.

“Almost all indicators are at their lowest level since the survey began in 1997.”

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