IT: Business and Consumer Confidence

April 27, 2017 03:00 CDT

Consensus Actual Previous Revised
Mfg. Conf. Level 107.1 107.9 107.1 107.2
Cons. Conf. Level 107.5 107.5 107.6
Bus. Conf. Level 107.4 105.1

Overall business sentiment showed a useful improvement in April. At 107.4, the headline confidence measure was more than 2 points stronger than its March outturn and at a multi-year high. Moreover, the advance reflected gains in all of the major sectors.

Morale in manufacturing was 0.7 points firmer at 107.9, its fifth increase in as many months, mainly due to limited rises in domestic orders and output. Elsewhere, construction jumped nearly 5 points to 128.0, services was up 1.4 points at 107.8 and retail 2 points higher at 110.8.

However, by contrast, sentiment in the consumer sector was little changed at 107.5, just 0.1 points short of its March reading but a disappointing 3.4 points below its mark at the end of last year. The personal climate measure at least made some ground as did buying intentions but inflation expectations reversed all of their March rise.

The all-round improvement in business optimism bodes well for a stronger GDP growth at the start of the current quarter. Even so, without the support of a more robust household sector, future growth is likely to remain relatively subdued and, in turn, keep a lid on inflation.

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.