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UBS consumption indicator: a distinct dip in August

Zurich / Basel | | Media Releases Switzerland

Poor business activity in the retail sector dragged the UBS consumption indicator down despite an increase in new car registrations. The strong franc dampened consumer willingness to spend, although it also increased the purchasing power of Swiss residents.

The UBS consumption indicator dropped 0.49 points in August. This represents the largest monthly decrease in nine years. At its current level of 0.79, the UBS consumption indicator is only marginally higher than during the previous two recessions in 2002/03 and 2008/09. Very poor business activity in the retail sector and deteriorating consumer sentiment were the main causes of the decline. Only new car registrations, which continue to be robust, escaped the downward trend (August: +9.1% year-on-year).

The sudden drop in the UBS consumption indicator in August is attributable at least in part to the appreciation of the Swiss franc: the euro – franc exchange rate approached 1:1 during August. This extreme overvaluation may well have unnerved consumers and prompted them to cut some of their spending. Setting an exchange rate floor has noticeably reduced the uncertainty surrounding the exchange rate situation, and it is hoped that this will also lift consumer sentiment somewhat. In principle the strong franc is a positive development for consumers, because the reduction in prices that goes hand-in-hand with such an appreciation means consumers' purchasing power has increased. This is evident not least in the high number of new car registrations, which is likely to have been brought on by the exchange rate discount and an increase in direct imports.

UBS Consumption Indicator and private consumption in Switzerland
(Private consumption: year-on-year change, in %; UBS Consumption Indicator: index level)

Calculation of the UBS Consumption Indicator

The UBS Consumption Indicator signals private consumption trends in Switzerland with a lead time of about three months of the official figures. At roughly 60%, private consumption is by far the most important component of Swiss GDP. UBS calculates this leading indicator from five consumer-related parameters: new car registrations, business activity in the retail sector, the number of domestic overnight hotel stays by Swiss residents the consumer sentiment index, and credit card transactions made via UBS at points of sale in Switzerland. With the exception of the consumer sentiment index, all of this data is available monthly.

UBS AG

Contact:

Daniel Kalt, Chief Economist Switzerland
Tel. +41 44 234 25 60

Caesar Lack, Economic Research Switzerland
Tel. +41 44 234 44 13

Sibille Duss, Wealth Management Research
Tel. +41 44 235 69 54

UBS publications and forecasts for Switzerland:
www.ubs.com/wmr-swiss-research