OTTAWA — The Bank of Canada says business sentiment has reached its highest level since 2011 with corporate expectations for key areas like future sales, investment and hiring intentions all above historical averages.

The quarterly survey of Canadian firms will likely add to expectations that the central bank will start hiking its benchmark interest rate next month.

The combination of the strengthening economy and recent, “more-hawkish” comments by governor Stephen Poloz have fed speculation the bank will increase its rate for the first time in seven years as soon as July 12.

The Bank of Canada says its new survey of about 100 Canadian companies provides clear evidence of a generalized improvement in business sentiment.

The survey found business hiring intentions for the next 12 months had accelerated since April to reach its highest level on record.

The poll also shows companies expect sales growth to continue improving over the coming year, while business investment intentions for the next 12 months also remain elevated.

Overall, the bank says the positive business outlook has been spreading across industries and regions.

Canada has been enjoying a stronger-than-expected run of economic data since the start of the year in key areas such as growth, trade and the labour market.