UBS SME barometer: Recovery continues for small- and medium-sized industrial enterprises
The measures for both small- and medium-sized industrial enterprises still lie below the long-term averages. However, the SME barometer rose again to -0.16 points in October, while the barometer for large companies fell marginally to -0.24 points. Among the service providers, large companies are also under greater pressure.
Zurich, 01 December 2016 – The barometer for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in industry (excluding construction industry) again improved slightly to -0.16 points in October from -0.35 points in September. The firms' pessimistic forecasts for future new orders and production levels were the main hindrances to a sharper rise. For the same reasons, the barometer for large companies fell slightly to -0.24 points from -0.23 points. Both barometers are still below the long-term averages. The pessimistic forecasts indicate that the industrial sector's recovery is still extremely fragile. Especially export-oriented firms continue to be handicapped by the strong Swiss franc. Although the business climate has improved for many industrial companies in recent months, the profit situation remained challenging.
Pressure on service sector margins as well
In addition to the SME barometer, which focusses on SMEs and major companies in industry, the situation among service providers was also examined. While they still assessed their general business situation as good, they are suffering from diminishing returns as they did in the previous quarters. The situation is still significantly more strained in the current quarter for large companies than it is for SMEs. The margin situation for service providers is unlikely to change much in the coming months, as both classes of companies expect prices to continue falling.
Difficulties in the profit situation are proving to be a particular burden in retail trade and tourism. Both sectors have been suffering in the intensively competitive environment since the sharp appreciation of the Swiss franc against the euro in 2011. In tourism, the downward dynamic has decelerated for both large companies and SMEs. But in the retail trade sector, the downward trend continues unabated; as shown by the data from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, retail sales have been falling for 21 months.
Slowdown in construction industry
In the construction sector – whose development was analysed in addition to the industrial and service sectors – falling prices and the slowdown in economic momentum that was observed in previous months continued. The profit situation further worsened for SMEs, but it stabilized for large companies, albeit at a low level, for the first time since the first quarter of 2015. However, the slightly improved figures for large contracting firms cannot disguise the fact that the business climate has not been this bleak since the second quarter of 2010. Large architecture and engineering companies were also not as severely affected by low profits as SMEs. The forecasts by firms in the sector suggest that the disparity in these trends will continue in the coming months. While large companies are expecting prices to rise, SMEs are preparing for lower prices.
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 seasonally 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.
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Sibille Duss, UBS Chief Investment Office WM
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