IT: Business and Consumer Confidence

Tue Mar 29 03:00:00 CDT 2016

Consensus Actual Previous Revised
Mfg. Conf. Level 102.3 102.2 102.0
Cons. Conf. Level 114.0 115.0 114.5
Bus. Conf. Level 100.1 103.1 103.2

According to the latest INSEE survey, Italian business sentiment deteriorated in March. At 100.1, the overall confidence measure was more than 3 points short of its February reading and at its lowest level since February 2015.

The headline drop masked a modest 0.2 point improvement in manufacturing morale (to 102.2) and reflected instead a worsening situation in retail (104.9 after 106.8), construction (118.4 after 119.3) and, in particular, services (103.2 after 106.5).

However, at the same time consumer confidence edged a little higher, gaining 0.5 points to 105.0. That said, this only reversed a fraction of February's 4.1 point loss and left the measure at its second weakest mark since last September. Moreover, inflation expectations for the year ahead slumped 10 points to minus 30.

Istat's results suggest a generally disappointing end to the first quarter by the Italian economy. In turn, this does not bode well for this month's upcoming PMI reports.

Istat's business and consumer confidence surveys are conducted over the first fifteen and ten working days of each reference month respectively and provide information about current and expected developments in key sector variables. The largely qualitative results are synthesized for each survey into a single number that provides an overall measure of sentiment. Business confidence reflects the combined results of separate surveys covering manufacturing, retail, construction and services.

If investors want to know how the business or consumer sectors are performing as they evaluate their investment decisions, they can find timely and in depth information in the latest Istat surveys. Although short-term swings can be erratic, changes in trends in confidence can contain very useful information about a sector's underlying health well in advance of the release of the official data. Moreover, by including some forward-looking components (e.g. manufacturing orders or consumer buying intentions) the Istat surveys can also provide a potential insight into prospective developments.