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Economic sentiment increases in both the EU and the euro area

Brussels, 28 February 2012
In February, the Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) rose for the second month in a row in both the EU and the euro area. The ESI rose by 1.1 points in the EU and by 1.0 point in the euro area, to 93.9 and 94.4, respectively. The improvement was broad-based across all sectors except for services, where a decrease in confidence partly offset the rebound observed in January. Among the largest Member States Poland (+1.7) reported the biggest increase in sentiment, followed by France (+1.6), the Netherlands (+1.2) and Italy (+1.0), while the ESI improved only marginally in the UK (+0.3) and remained broadly unchanged in Germany (+0.1) and Spain (-0.2). The ESI is above its long-term average only in Germany.


Economic sentiment indicator (s.a.)

February EU: 93.9

Euro Area: 94.4

Confidence in industry improved in both the EU (+1.8) and the euro area (+1.2), moving slightly above its long-term average for the first time since November 2011. In both regions, managers were more positive about their companies’ production expectations, order books and stocks of finished products. In the EU, managers’ assessment of export order books edged up significantly, while that of past production improved slightly. In the euro area, both export order books and past production were assessed more negatively. Confidence in retail trade improved in both the EU (+2.0) and in the euro area (+1.2). However, in both regions the indicator remains well below its long term average. Confidence in construction improved further in both the EU (+2.1) and in the euro area (+3.6), thanks to a more positive assessment of orderbooks and, notably, of employment expectations.

Confidence in services worsened in the EU (-1.1) and remained broadly stable in the euro area (-0.2). At the EU level, the decline in the confidence indicator stemmed from a marked decrease in managers’ assessments of the past business situation and past demand, as well as a deterioration in demand expectations. For the euro area, the positive assessments of the past business situation and expected demand were broadly offset by weaker past demand.

Employment expectations deteriorated in all business sectors except construction. At the same time, expected selling prices were revised down across all sectors in both regions except in euro-area manufacturing, where they remained broadly unchanged.

Confidence among consumers improved slightly in both the EU (+0.7) and the euro area (+0.4), based mainly on improved expectations regarding the general economic situation and consumers’ own financial situation. By contrast, unemployment fears rose in both regions and especially in the euro area. Confidence in financial services – not included in the ESI – continued to increase in both the EU (+4.6) and in the euro area (+4.0) thanks to a more positive assessment of the past business situation and demand in both regions. Demand expectations increased in the euro area, making a positive contribution to confidence, but decreased in the EU.

Industrial confidence indicator (s.a.)

February EU: – 5.4

Euro Area: – 5.8

Service confidence indicator (s.a.)

February EU: -4.3

Euro Area: -0.9

Consumer confidence indicator (s.a.)

February EU: -20.1

Euro Area: -20.3

Retail trade confidence indicator (s.a.)

February EU: -12.0

Euro Area: -14.3

Construction confidence indicator (s.a.)

February EU: -28.5

Euro Area: -24.5

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

February EU: 3.4

Euro Area: -2.7

The next Business and Consumer Survey is due to be published on 29 March 2012.

Full tables are available on: http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/db_indicators/surveys/index_en.htm