IT: Business and Consumer Confidence

March 29, 2017 03:00 CDT

Consensus Actual Previous Revised
Mfg. Conf. Level 106.3 107.1 106.3 106.4
Cons. Conf. Level 106.6 107.6 106.6
Bus. Conf. Level 105.1 104.0 104.3

According to the new Istat survey, overall business sentiment in March improved to its highest level since December 2015. At 105.1, the headline indicator was up 0.8 points versus a slightly firmer revised mid-quarter print to record its third increase in as many months.

Confidence in manufacturing climbed 0.7 points to 107.1, its strongest reading since before the Great Recession. The increase here was underpinned by modest gains in new orders and production.

The consumer sector also had a better month with morale advancing a full point to 107.6 as households adopted a more optimistic view of the Italian economy. Even so, the pick-up reversed only half of February's drop and buying intentions were a little softer. Price expectations rose too but similarly still fell short of the previous month's mark.

Elsewhere, sentiment registered limited gains in services and retail but dipped in construction.

Overall today's results point to just a slightly firmer tone to next week's March PMI surveys.

The Italian statistics office (Istat) conducts business and consumer confidence surveys over the first fifteen and ten working days of each reference month respectively. These 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.