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Brussels, 27 May 2011

May 2011: Economic sentiment stable in the EU and moderately down in the euro area

In May, the Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) was broadly unchanged at 105.4 in the EU, while it decreased by 0.6 points to 105.5 in the euro area. The overall decline in the euro area resulted from weakening confidence in all the business sectors, while sentiment improved among consumers. In the EU, a worsening of sentiment in industry was offset by moderate gains in the other business sectors, while consumers' confidence improved markedly. Among the largest Member States1, the Netherlands (-4.6 points), Italy (-2.7) and France (-1.9) reported decreases, while the UK (+2.6) and Poland (+0.6) improved. Meanwhile, Germany (-0.1) remained broadly stable. The ESI remains above its long-term average in Germany, France, the Netherlands and the UK.

Economic sentiment indicator (s.a.)

EU: May 105.4 Euro area: May 105.5

Although confidence remains far above its long-term average in the sector, industry contributed negatively to overall sentiment. Confidence in industry decreased by 1.7 points in both the EU and the euro area, on the back of a drop in firms' production expectations and a worsening assessment of the level of order books. Managers were also more pessimistic about their export order books and past production, which declined substantially, while their appraisal of stocks continued to recover from historic lows.

Sentiment in services remained broadly unchanged in the EU (+0.3) and decreased in the euro area (-1.2). The difference between the two regions reflects managers' diverging views on expected demand, with an improvement in the EU and a deterioration in the euro area. Sentiment in the retail sector improved in the EU (+0.8), on the back of a very positive assessment of present business situation in the UK, whereas it declined in the euro area (-0.7). Sentiment in construction remained broadly unchanged in the euro area (-0.3), while it improved slightly in the EU (+0.4), with the indicator remaining at very low levels in both regions. In the EU, employment expectations deteriorated in industry and improved in services, which can mainly be ascribed to the UK. In the euro area, employment expectations weakened both in industry and in services. Managers’ selling-price expectations declined in these two sectors, as well as consumers’ price expectations.

Confidence among consumers increased in both the EU (+3.2) and the euro area (+1.8), reflecting more optimism about the future general economic situation and decreasing unemployment fears. Consumers were also more confident about their households' expected financial situation, especially in the EU.

Confidence in financial services – not included in the ESI – decreased in both the EU (-1.9) and – more markedly – in the euro area (-3.6), mainly because of a weaker assessment of past and expected demand evolution.

Industrial confidence indicator (s.a.)

EU: May 3.5

Euro area: May 3.9

Service confidence indicator (s.a.)

EU: May 7.7

Euro area: May 9.2

Consumer confidence indicator (s.a.)

EU: May -10.7

Euro area: May -9.8

Retail trade confidence indicator (s.a.)

EU: May -2.7

Euro area: May -2.5

Construction confidence indicator (s.a.)

EU: May -25.8

Euro area: May -24.6

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

EU: May 21.8

Euro area: May 25.8

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

Full tables are available on:

1 :

With effect from May 2011, a number of partner institutes in the BCS programme have changed; this may cause a break in some series. In particular, ESI figures for Spain in May are not comparable with April ones.

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