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Brussels, 27 January 2011

January 2011: Economic sentiment broadly unchanged in both the EU and the euro area

Important notice: since May 2010 business surveys data are classified in accordance with an updated version of the Nomenclature of Economic Activities (NACE rev. 2) causing a potential break in series at this date. In January 2011, the Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) remained broadly unchanged, at 105.8 in the EU and 106.5 in the euro area. After 7 months of uninterrupted improvement, the indicator stands well above its long term.

Economic sentiment indicator (s.a.)

EU: January 105.8

Euro area: January 106.5

A majority of Member States reported either an improvement or a stabilisation in sentiment. Among the seven largest Member States, the Netherlands (+2.5 points) reported the most significant increase, followed by France (+0.8). Italy and Spain remained broadly unchanged. The UK (-1.2), Poland (-1.6) and Germany (-1.7) reported a significant worsening in sentiment. In Germany, France, the Netherlands and the UK, the ESI is above its long-term average.

Sentiment in industry, which increased by 1.1 points in the euro area and by 0.6 point in the EU, continued to contribute positively to the overall results. The gain in confidence in this sector reflects sizeable improvements in order books, while managers were more cautious about their production expectations. Stocks of finished goods remained at a very low level by historical standards. In addition, managers in industry were upbeat about their export order books and past production trends. The quarterly manufacturing survey (also released this month) indicates a continuous upwards trend in capacity utilisation. Capacity utilisation now stands at about 80% in both the EU and the euro area, approaching its long term average (81%).

Confidence among consumers declined slightly in the EU (-0.5) and remained stable in the euro area. In both regions, a slight easing of consumer's unemployment fears was counterbalanced by a worsening of their assessment of the general economic situation and deterioration in their financial situation. Sentiment in construction increased moderately in the euro area (+0.5) and remained broadly stable in the EU. The indicator stands at very low levels in both regions. Confidence in services remained flat in both regions. Sentiment in the retail sector weakened substantially in both the EU (-4.2) and the euro area (-4.4), after the significant gain registered in December.

Managers in industry signalled a significant increase in their selling price expectations, while households also reported a rise in their assessment of past and future price trends.

Confidence in financial services – not included in the ESI – improved significantly in the euro area (+2.5), and remained unchanged in the EU.

Industrial confidence indicator (s.a.)

EU: January 5.0

Euro area: January 6.0

Service confidence indicator (s.a.)

EU: January 6.2

Euro area: January 9.2

Consumer confidence indicator (s.a.)

EU: January -12.6

Euro area: January -11.2

Retail trade confidence indicator (s.a.)

EU: January 3.7

Euro area: January 0.1

Construction confidence indicator (s.a.)

EU: January -28.0

Euro area: January -26.0

Financial services confidence indicator (n.s.a.)

EU: January 23.6

Euro area: January 28.0

The next Business and Consumer Survey is due to be published on 24 February 2011.

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