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European Commission - Press release

April 2012: Economic sentiment flat in the EU and down in the euro area

Brussels, 26 April 2012 - The Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) remained stable in April in the EU at 93.2. In the euro area it decreased significantly by 1.7 points (to 92.8), thereby offsetting the gains recorded over the first quarter of 2012. The decline in the euro area was mainly driven by weakening confidence in the industry and services sectors. Confidence improved only in the retail sector. The more positive reading of the ESI in the EU reflects a strong improvement in the UK. In both regions, the ESI remains well below its long term average. Most Member States witnessed a drop in economic sentiment. Among the seven largest Members States, the ESI registered the sharpest fall in Italy (-5.7), followed by Poland (-2.3), Spain (-1.8) and Germany (-1.0). The indicator remained broadly unchanged in France (-0.4) and improved in the Netherlands (+1.2) and, particularly, in the UK (+4.2). The ESI remains above its long-term average only in Germany.

Economic sentiment indicator (s.a.)

April EU: 93.2

Euro Area: 92.8

Confidence in services remained broadly flat in the EU (-0.2) but decreased significantly in the euro area (-2.1). While improved demand expectations largely offset the more negative assessment of the past business situation and demand in the EU, all components contributed to the more negative reading of the confidence indicator in the euro area. After continuously positive readings over the first quarter, confidence among consumers decreased in both regions (-0.9 in the EU and -0.8 in the euro area). This is due mainly to more pessimistic expectations about the general economic situation and, to a lesser extent, households' own financial situation. At the same time, a strong easing in unemployment fears was recorded in both the EU and the euro area. Confidence in construction decreased by 1.3 points in the EU and by 0.7 points in the euro area on the back of worsened employment expectations in that sector in both regions. A more negative assessment of current order books contributed further to the deterioration in the EU.

Confidence in the retail sector improved markedly in the EU (+2.6) and, to a lesser extent in the euro area (+0.6). A more positive assessment of the volume of stocks and the present and expected business situation contributed to the overall improvement in the EU. In the euro area, the improvement was entirely due to a more positive assessment of the volume of stocks, while the present business situation was assessed somewhat more negatively and expectations about the business situation remained unchanged.

Employment expectations of managers in industry and services improved in the EU although this can be mainly ascribed to the UK. In the euro area, employment expectations deteriorated in manufacturing and services. Managers’ selling-price expectations declined across all business sectors in both regions. At the same time, consumers’ price expectations increased markedly in both the EU and the euro area.

Confidence in financial services – not included in the ESI – dropped significantly in both the EU (-2.1) and the euro area (-4.2), mainly because of a sharp deterioration in demand expectations.

In the quarterly survey of the manufacturing sector, carried out in April 2012, industrial managers in the EU and the euro area reported a slight increase in the number of months of production assured by orders on hands, while reporting markedly worsened assessments of new orders and more caution about their export volume expectations, especially in the euro area. Managers' appraisal of their competitive position on foreign markets outside the EU improved in the EU and deteriorated in the euro area over the past three months. Capacity utilisation decreased slightly in both the EU and the euro area, to 79.8% and 79.6%, respectively. At the Member State level, strong heterogeneity persists, with Germany leading at 85.2% and peripheral countries lagging behind.

According to the bi-annual investment survey carried out in March/April this year, real investment in the EU is expected to increase by 4% in 2012 and to remain unchanged in the euro area. The outlook for this year deteriorated, especially in the euro area, when compared to the expectations reported in the survey conducted in October/November of last year, when the increase in real investment for 2012 was expected to be 6% for the EU and 5% for the euro area.

Industrial confidence indicator (s.a.)

April EU: - 7.7

Euro Area: - 9.0

Service confidence indicator (s.a.)

April EU: -3.7

Euro Area: -2.4

Consumer confidence indicator (s.a.)

April EU: -20.2

Euro Area: -19.9

Retail trade confidence indicator (s.a.)

April EU: -8.7

Euro Area: -11.4

Construction confidence indicator (s.a.)

April EU: -30.3

Euro Area: -27.4

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

April EU: 1.4

Euro Area: -7.7

The next Business and Consumer Survey is due to be published on 30 May 2012.

Full tables are available:

Contacts :

Amadeu Altafaj Tardio (+32 2 295 26 58)

Vandna Kalia (+32 2 299 58 24)

Audrey Augier (+32 2 297 16 07)

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