UBS SME barometer: Upward trend continues among industrial SMEs
From April to July, the barometer of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the industrial sector climbed from 0.49 to 0.65 points. Among large industrial companies, the figure fell slightly from 0.51 to 0.41 points. Both barometers remain above their long-term averages, while the economic situation for service providers also improved across the board.
Zurich, 7 September 2017 – The SME barometer rose from 0.49 to 0.65 points from April to July due to year-on-year increases in many sub-indicators. They declined on a month-on-month basis, however, hampering a stronger increase of the barometer. The positive general assessment of the business situation and buoyant order books, both foreign and overall, helped boost growth in the second quarter. The barometer fell slightly from 0.51 to 0.41 points for large companies as a result of the drop in incoming orders from April to July and the lower level of production. The more positive general assessment of the business situation and more optimistic expectations for production helped prevent an even greater decline. In spite of the slight fall, the barometer of large companies remained above the long-term average in July. This improved outlook for industrial companies is consistent with the assessments of UBS economists, who forecast broad-based economic growth this year.
Upward trend among service providers continues
The business situation in the service sector continued to improve, with large companies performing slightly better than SMEs due to their greater earnings growth since April. SME earnings have also improved in recent months, but not to the same degree as large companies. Both groups are pessimistic about the future trend in sales prices, although large companies' expectations are considerably bleaker than SMEs'. The situation is better among retailers, but they still rated the business situation as unsatisfactory in July. The recent weakening of the Swiss franc against the euro could improve retailers' economic situation. Nonetheless, their earnings continued to fall in the third quarter and companies of both sizes expect falling prices over the next three months. This trend could put more pressure on earnings.
Large divergence among tourism firms
The situation of SMEs in the tourism sector improved in the last three months, but they still lagged behind the performance of large companies. SMEs still view their business situation as poor, as their earnings deteriorated slightly in the third quarter. A significant upward trend has yet to be seen for months. Among large companies, which regarded their business situation as healthy for the second month in a row, the economic recovery is already much more advanced. Sales and demand continued to recover for both groups of companies, although large ones performed better than SMEs.
SMEs in construction continue to struggle with cost pressures
The business position of SMEs in the construction industry deteriorated slightly in recent months, but it continued to improve among large companies. The latter group's slightly more optimistic view could be attributable to improved earnings, as well as the satisfactory state of their order books. Large companies also expect prices to continue recovering. The earnings situation for SMEs deteriorated, which is not likely to change soon, as they think prices will fall in the near future. SMEs' order books also declined in the third quarter.
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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