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UBS SME barometer: The gloomy month of May
After six months of recovery, the economic situation deteriorated ubSin May for both SMEs and large companies. In the manufacturing sector, SMEs were only marginally above the level for last November. By contrast, large companies were still way above the November 2011 level, since their previous recovery was stronger. The difference between the two business groups was less distinct in the service sector.
According to the SME barometer, both large industrial companies as well as their SME counterparts have recovered slightly since mid-2011. Large companies were even temporarily above the important 0-point mark, which indicated that their economic situation had improved. SMEs also recovered slightly during the second half of last year, but less than large companies on average. The situation in May, however, deteriorated significantly again for both SMEs and large companies in the industrial sector.
Construction and service sectors remain strong
The construction sector did not have any problems with the slightly tense economic situation in Switzerland in recent months. Both business groups have been able to look back on steady quarter-on-quarter growth in their order books for the past three years, with the difference between large companies and SMEs disappearing during the first quarter. However, whereas the share of large companies reporting constantly increasing order volumes fell overall, it increased for SMEs compared to the previous quarters. However, both business groups claimed that their headcounts were too large in the second quarter. This would indicate that momentum has tailed off slightly in the construction sector in recent months after all. Furthermore, the industry has been battling with falling prices for some time.
Service enterprises also fared better compared to the manufacturing sector. This is increasingly due to the fact that, with a few exceptions such as tourism, the service sector is predominantly focused on the domestic market. For example, during the first three months of the current year, both SMEs as well as large companies reported a slight rise in demand, with larger companies faring slightly better. However, as in the manufacturing sector, service enterprises – especially large companies – suffered from falling returns, due among other things to falling prices. Otherwise, the differences in the service sector between large companies and SMEs were less pronounced than in the manufacturing sector.
SMEs in the retail, wholesale and tourism sector suffered more than large companies
Owing to dwindling sales and stable costs in recent months, retail margins came under increasing pressure. However, while large companies have only been experiencing falling returns since the middle of last year, SMEs have been feeling the pinch since the first quarter of 2008. Large companies fared better than SMEs in the last quarter in the wholesale trade as well. While large companies reported steady returns compared to the previous quarter, SMEs reported a deterioration during the first three months of the current year. The employment situation was also more encouraging for large companies in the wholesale trade; the majority of large companies regarded the headcount as too low.
In the tourism sector, the economic situation for large companies had long been better. But during the last two quarters, reality caught up with them too, forcing them to accept losses. In the closing quarter of 2011, large companies also experienced a sharp decline in returns, sales and demand. As the survey results reveal, SMEs in the tourism sector generally found it more difficult to adapt to the changing economic environment.
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 Economist Switzerland
Tel. +41-44-234 25 60
Caesar Lack, CIO Research Wealth Management Research
Tel. +41-44-234 44 13
Sibille Duss, CIO Research Wealth Management Research
Tel. +41-44-235 69 54
UBS publications and forecasts for Switzerland: www.ubs.com/wmr-swiss-research