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Brussels, 24 February 2011

February 2011: Economic sentiment on the rise again in both the EU and the euro area

Important notice: From February 2011 onwards, business surveys are presented exclusively in accordance with the NACE rev. 2 classification. In previous months, a combination of NACE rev. 1 and rev. 2 has been used.After pausing in January, the Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) resumed its upward trend in February in both the EU and the euro area. The indicator increased strongly, climbing by 1.4 points to 107.2 in the EU and by 1 point to 107.8 in the euro area. A significant rise in sentiment in services was the main driver of the improvement. Confidence in industry and construction also contributed to the overall improvement, as well as confidence among euro area consumers.

Economic sentiment indicator (s.a.)

EU: February 107.2 Euro area: February 107.8

Most Member States recorded an improvement in sentiment. Among the seven largest Member States, Poland (+3.6 points) and the UK (+3.1 points) reported the most significant increase, followed by Spain (+2.2), Germany (+1.3) and the Netherlands (+1 point). Only France (-0.4) and Italy (-0.5) reported a fall. The ESI is now above its long-term average in six out of the seven largest Member States, with Spain still catching up.

Sentiment in industry increased further by 1.1 points in the EU and by 0.4 point in the euro area. The gain in confidence in this sector reflects sizeable improvements in both (domestic) order books and export order books. Managers were also optimistic about their production expectations and employment expectations.

Sentiment in services rose significantly in both the EU (+3.6) and the euro area (+1.2). Managers were especially upbeat about the evolution of demand observed in the past months, while they were more cautious about expected demand. Sentiment in construction increased significantly as well, both in the EU and the euro area (+2.1 and +1.7, respectively), although the indicator remains at very low levels in both regions. Sentiment in the retail sector weakened substantially in the EU (-2.8) and improved marginally in the euro area (+0.4). Confidence among consumers improved significantly in the euro area (+1.2), while it remained stable in the EU, mainly because of a deterioration in UK consumers' assessment of the general economic situation and unemployment fears.

In both regions, managers in industry and services 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 both the EU (+1.2) and the euro area (+3.8), mainly backed by improved demand expectations.

Industrial confidence indicator (s.a.)

EU: February 5.9

Euro area: February 6.5

Service confidence indicator (s.a.)

EU: February 9.7

Euro area: February 11.1

Consumer confidence indicator (s.a.)

EU: February -12.4

Euro area: February -10

Retail trade confidence indicator (s.a.)

EU: February 0.8

Euro area: February -0.2

Construction confidence indicator (s.a.)

EU: February -25.8

Euro area: February -24.3

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

EU: February 24.8

Euro area: February 31.8

The next Business and Consumer Survey is due to be published on 30 March 2011.

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