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Brussels, 30 March 2011

March 2011: Economic sentiment stable in the EU and slightly down in 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.In March, the Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) was broadly unchanged at 107.4 in the EU, while it decreased by 0.6 point to 107.3 in the euro area. The overall decline in the euro area resulted from broadly unchanged sentiment in industry and weakening confidence in the other business sectors and among consumers. In the EU, industry and services remained on an upward trend offsetting the declines observed in retail trade, construction and among consumers.

Economic sentiment indicator (s.a.)

EU: March 107.2 Euro area: March 107.8

Member States recorded a decline in sentiment. Among the seven largest Member States, Poland (-3.1 points), Spain (-3.0) and Germany (-0.7) reported decreases, while the Netherlands (+3.1), the UK (+2.7) and France (+0.9) improved. Meanwhile, Italy (+0.1) remained broadly stable. The ESI is above its long-term average in five of the seven largest Member States. Poland went back to just below its long-term average, while Spain remained well below it.

Sentiment in industry increased further - by 0.6 points - in the EU, while remaining broadly unchanged in the euro area. The difference between the two regions is mainly explained by a strong increase in the UK (+3.0 points). Production expectations decreased both in the EU and in the euro area, despite an improvement in the assessment of the level of order books and an increasing number of managers considering their stocks as not sufficient. Managers were also slightly more pessimistic about their export order books.

Sentiment in services rose in the EU (+0.6) and decreased in the euro area (-0.4). Managers were more positive about expected demand but more pessimistic about demand observed in the past months. Sentiment in construction decreased in both in the EU (-1.6) and the euro area (-0.8), partly offsetting the improvement registered in February. The indicator remains at very low levels in both regions. Sentiment in the retail sector weakened in both the EU (-0.3) and the euro area (-1.3). Also, confidence among consumers decreased in both the EU (-0.4) and the euro area (-0.6), reflecting more pessimism about the future general economic situation, consumers' future financial situation and their possibility to save money in the next 12 months. In contrast, consumers reported slightly decreasing unemployment fears.

Confidence in financial services – not included in the ESI – decreased significantly in both the EU (-2.1) and the euro area (-5.7), mainly because of a weaker assessment of past and expected demand evolution. Meanwhile managers' assessment of past business situation improved.

Industrial confidence indicator (s.a.)

EU: March 6.6

Euro area: March 6.6

Service confidence indicator (s.a.)

EU: March 10.4

Euro area: March 10.8

Consumer confidence indicator (s.a.)

EU: March -12.8

Euro area: March -10.6

Retail trade confidence indicator (s.a.)

EU: March 0.5

Euro area: March -1.5

Construction confidence indicator (s.a.)

EU: March -27.2

Euro area: March -25.0

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

EU: March 22.7

Euro area: March 26.1

The next Business and Consumer Survey is due to be published on 29 April 2011.

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