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UBS SME barometer: Divergent economic circumstances for SMEs and large companies
Overall, the business situation eased slightly in the industrial sector, although differences between large companies and small and medium-sized enterprises are more pronounced. Despite falling income, the economic situation in the service sector has stabilized at a high level.
In recent months, the Swiss economy displayed an increasingly divergent trend: On the one hand, industrials came under increasing pressure owing to falling demand from abroad. On the other hand, the service sector benefited from brisk domestic demand. However, there are now growing indications that the industrial sector has bottomed out, while the economic situation in the service sector has stabilized at a high level. Our forecast for the Swiss economy therefore remains relatively optimistic; we anticipate GDP growth of 1.1 percent for the current year.
However, the barometers fell for both business groups, despite the stabilization seen in the industrial sector. At -0.94 points in August, the SME barometer was well below its mean value of 1.30. Over the past two months, the barometer for large companies also fell to –0.60 points from –0.56 and was also below the long-term average.
Growing differences between SMEs and large companies in industry
According to the survey, large companies and SMEs in the industrial sector are drifting farther apart according to many indicators. The large companies rate the business situation as satisfactory, while the SMEs continue to assess it as poor. This is very probably attributable to the large companies' better profit situation. While the backlog of orders large companies received from abroad also recovered, this continued to decline for SMEs. There were no discernible differences between the two business groups in terms of prices.
Although the economic situation deteriorated somewhat for both SMEs and large companies in the construction sector, the majority of companies still consider the economic situation to be good. However, large companies were slightly better positioned than SMEs. This stands in contrast to the development of prices, which have increased among SMEs in recent months. Both SMEs as well as large companies rated their profit situation positively. In recent months, architectural agencies and engineering consultancies, commonly regarded as preliminary indicators for the construction sector, were considerably more upbeat about their economic situation. This positive rating of the business situation is in all likelihood attributable to the continuing improvement in income owing to rising prices in the third quarter.
Growing demand among large companies in the service sector
As in the industrial sector, the two business groups are also diverging further in the service sector. Large companies expect prices to rise over the coming three months, while SMEs anticipate that prices will fall. The large companies are also more upbeat than their SME counterparts in their assessment of demand for the coming months. This development is also reflected in the employment figures; while the large companies rated the current headcount as too low, the SMEs considered it to be too high.
The profit situation of the SMEs in the retail sector also improved thanks to higher revenues. This contrasts the view of large companies, which continue to anticipate negative performance. Most likely, large companies therefore assess their economic situation as poor, while the majority of SMEs consider it to be good.
The outlook in the tourism sector, however, remained gloomy. Although the situation has eased slightly for all indicators, most companies continued to report falling demand, revenues and income, regardless of their size. In addition, most companies rated their current headcount as too high.
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 Economist Switzerland
Tel. +41 44 234 25 60, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sibille Duss, CIO Research Wealth Management Research
Tel. +41 44 235 69 54, email@example.com
UBS publications and forecasts for Switzerland: www.ubs.com/wmr-swiss-research
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