UBS SME barometer: Large industrial companies benefiting from the economic recovery
Large industrial companies are generally faring better than small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This is reflected in the barometer for the large companies as well as in individual indicators. By contrast, SMEs lost some ground and the SME barometer deteriorated again slightly in January.
Zurich/Basel, 5 March 2014 – Since October, the economic situation of large companies has improved even further. The barometer rose from -0.24 points the previous month to 0.25 points. By contrast, the SMEs lost ground. The SME barometer fell slightly from -0.45 in December to -0.47 points in January. The economic situation of SMEs thus remains more difficult than that of large companies. While the barometer trend for large companies has been positive in recent months, the SME barometer has stagnated since March of last year.
Large industrial companies increase production
SMEs once again reduced their production in recent months as large companies managed to increase theirs. These differences in production were also reflected in the assessment of the business situation, which large companies again regarded as good for the first time since February of last year. SMEs continued to rate the business situation as poor, despite a turnaround evident in the results. Despite the brightening economic picture, especially among large companies, SMEs and large companies alike continued to rate their level of employment as too high. They both expect the profit situation to deteriorate during the first quarter of this year, a trend that has persisted since 2011 for large companies and since 2009 for SMEs.
The building sector remains a thriving industry regardless of company size. The general business situation was rated good, with the order backlog increasing once again over the previous quarter. In addition, companies continue to look for new staff. Although price pressure in the building sector was still an issue, profits rose in January for large companies to their highest level in three months, and stabilized for SMEs. Architectural offices and engineering firms also consider the current business situation good. Large companies have seen a slight downturn in momentum, which nevertheless remains at a high level. A similar picture characterized the order backlog. Among large companies, declining momentum was also evident for this indicator.
The business situation remains good in the service sector
In terms of company size and indicator, service providers painted an inconsistent picture, with the exception of the general assessment of the business situation, which SMEs and large companies both regarded as good. Large companies recorded rising returns in the past three months, while the level of income merely stabilized for SMEs. However, the favorable profit situation reported by large companies could disappear in the coming months, as they fear falling sales prices. SMEs, however, expect prices to remain stable.
In the retail sector, SMEs experienced a profit squeeze in the last quarter, while large companies were at least able to stabilize their profit situation. This could be linked to prices, which the large companies were also able to stabilize, while SMEs experienced a further decline. However, despite this improved profit situation, large companies merely rate their business situation as satisfactory – the same as the SMEs. In contrast to that of the retail sector, the economic situation of the wholesale trade continued to improve regardless of company size, mainly due a better profit situation. Large companies fared only slightly worse than SMEs in terms of demand.
SMEs in the industrial sector are doing slightly worse than their corporate counterparts, something reflected in most indicators and the barometer, which was lower for SMEs in January than for large companies. The situation is somewhat more differentiated for service providers, depending on the industry and indicator, but large companies and SMEs are both benefiting from robust private consumption.
UBS SME barometer
Calculation of the UBS SME barometer
The UBS Industrial Barometer is based on the industry survey conducted by the KOF each month (excluding the construction industry). It is calculated as the first main component of 17 subindicators for the entire industry, divided into SMEs (up to 200 employees) and large companies (more than 200 employees). It is scaled so that its mean value is zero and its variance is 1.
The data is seasonal adjusted. Survey responses are evaluated using a diffusion index: the result represents average of companies reporting a positive or a negative trend. It therefore does not represent a percentage rate of change.
Daniel Kalt, UBS Chief Economiste Switzerland
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Sibille Duss, UBS CIO Wealth Management Research
Phone +41 44 235 69 54, firstname.lastname@example.org
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