Zurich, 06 September 2018 – Among the SMEs, the slight deterioration in the economic position was driven by most of the subindicators. Above all, foreign order books, production and future orders were lower in August year-over-year. The more optimistic outlook of SMEs managed to prevent an even greater decline. It was a mixed picture when it came to the big companies. The reduced new orders, orders booked and production level, compared to the previous month, made a negative overall contribution to the barometer. All of the other subindicators were better, but were unable to halt the slide of the large company barometer.
Industrial SMEs did better
Industrial SMEs performed better than big companies overall. While the big company barometer has declined by 0.8 points since March (highest value of the barometer since 2011), that of the SMEs was only 0.1 points below the March reading and overall higher than that of the big companies.
Among construction companies, orders booked enjoyed a slight improvement in the third quarter (July – September 2018, companies were surveyed in July) compared to the previous quarter, both for the major players as well as for SMEs, while the big companies saw a greater improvement than SMEs. However, these improvements in the orders booked of the big companies were reflected neither in their profits nor in the business position and not in the expected price behavior for the fourth quarter. Admittedly, the big companies evaluated the business position in the third quarter as good. But the difference to the SMEs was only slight. By contrast, among the big companies, the architectural and engineering firms still judged the economic situation in the third quarter more positively than the SMEs.
Big service sector companies fared better
The major service companies still evaluated the economic situation positively. The big companies view the business position in the third quarter more optimistically than the SMEs. The more positive evaluation of the business position by the big companies was also reflected in the other indicators in the service sector. For example, earnings and demand were better among the big companies than for SMEs in the last three months. However, the SMEs expect a stronger recovery of prices in the next three months, which could in turn somewhat improve the SMEs' situation.
While the industrial sectors are gradually recovering from the Swiss franc shock, the situation in the retail trade is still difficult. Both the SMEs as well as the big companies continue to regard the state of business as only satisfactory. However, big companies' earnings improved in the last three months. The revenue outlook for the next three months is also optimistic. But SMEs in the retail sector have not yet been able to benefit from this more positive outlook. Earnings in the third quarter once again declined. Moreover, SMEs expect turnover to stagnate in the next three months. The situation for companies in the tourist sector was somewhat better. Both the SMEs as well as the big companies viewed the economic situation in the third quarter positively. However, in this sector the big companies were also better able to cope with the Swiss franc shock than the SMEs.
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.
UBS Switzerland AG