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ECONOMIC DATA THIS WEEK

CBI Industrial Trends Survey, September 2019:  The latest results from the CBI Industrial Trends Survey (ITS) show a significant weakening in orders following the improvement in August, although output volumes remained steady at a level that is just on the long-run average.  Total order books slipped back but the decline in export orders was larger and the level for this now matches the 8-year low point that was recorded in July.

Output volumes were broadly flat in September, with a marginal improvement over the August reading.  As might be expected, the detailed picture was mixed with output expanding in 9 of the 17 sub-sectors.  There is some good news in that the growth was driven by the Food & Drink and Mechanical Engineering (Machinery) industries, although Metal Products - another important customer of manufacturing technology suppliers - was among the industries noted as creating a drag on output.  Respondents are expecting a fall in output next month - perhaps not surprising given the weakness of orders - with the outlook at its lowest level since April 2009.

You can see the CBI Press release on their web-site at www.cbi.org.uk/media-centre/ (published on 24 September) or request it from MTA;  we can also send a brief summary of the results.

Bank of England Agent’s Summary of Business Conditions, 3rd Quarter 2019:  The latest report from the Bank of England Agent’s paints an equally gloomy picture with manufacturing output and exports growing at their slowest rate for 3 years, although it is worth noting that there is still (just) growth in the sector.  They report that demand for UK goods exports from the Euro-zone was particularly subdued and while the main reason is probably the weakness of activity in that region, there were also some contacts reporting nervousness among EU customers about the risk of supply discretion from UK suppliers.

Over a quarter of the manufacturing respondents to the Banks’ survey of preparedness for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU said that they had scaled back their plans since March but would reinstate them before eth end of October.  This implies that we might see another stock-building and contraction phase around the current deadline at the end of October.

In the main report, investment intentions weakened a little further in the latest round of interviews and are still at a 9-year low level.  While these are not broken down by sector, the Agents report that a large proportion of companies were holding off investments, even for projects where the pay-back times were short.

The weaker levels of activity in both manufacturing and construction were reflected in an easing of capacity constraints.  In manufacturing, some contacts reported that they were holding on to staff until there was more clarity over Brexit, even though activity had weakened.

You can download the Bank of England Agent’s report, along with the parallel assessment of Brexit preparedness from their web-site at https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/agents-summary/2019/2019-q3 or request a copy from MTA.

European Commission Economic Sentiment Indicator, September 2019:  There was a further deterioration in the European Commission’s (EC) Economic Sentiment Index (ESI) for both the Euro-zone and the EU28.  The overall indicator is now back to its long-term average in the EU28 for the first time since the end of 2013;  for the Euro-zone it is still above the long-term average and because of a longer recovery from the Euro-crisis in 2012/12, this index is at its lowest since early 2015.

Among the major economies of the Euro-zone, the ESI fell significantly in Netherlands and Spain, was down in Germany and Italy, but broadly flat in France.  Elsewhere in the EU, the UK had the largest fall in the ESI among the major economies, but Poland was almost unchanged.  The input for the UK comes from the CBI surveys including the ITS reported above.

The ESI is made up of confidence indicators for industry, services, consumers, retail trade and construction and in contrast to August, the downturn in the overall ESI is led by the industrial confidence measure.  This is made up of three trends - expectations for output in the coming 3 months, the current level of orders and stocks of finished products - and managers assessments of all three measures were markedly more pessimistic, both in the Euro-zone and the EU28.  In addition, although not included in the industrial confidence indicator, there was also a significant weakening in respondents assessments of past production and export order books.

In the other sectors, the Euro-zone saw a small rise in confidence amongst consumers and the service sector, while construction confidence was flat and there was a small fall for the confidence measure for the retail trade sector.  Although not included in the ESI calculations, the financial services sector saw a sharp rise in confidence.

You can download the EC report from their web-site at https://ec.europa.eu/info/business-economy-euro/indicators-statistics/economic-databases/business-and-consumer-surveys/download-business-and-consumer-survey-data/press-releases_en or you can request it from MTA.

Data Exchanges during EMO:  Both CECIMO and CELIMO (respectively the European organisations for associations representing manufacturers and importers of machine tools and related technology) had meetings during EMO, from which the exchanges and presentations are available.

CECIMO hosted a meeting of associations from around the world which included the following information:

  • An exchange of data on the machine tool industry with some general economic indicators for 21 countries in Europe and around the world;
  • A summary presentation on European machine tool production, exports and orders;
  • A global economic and industrial outlook from Oxford Economics that is a precursor to the Autumn edition of the global machine tool forecast that will be published for MTA members at our Forecast Seminar on 17th October (see separate item to register for this event);
  • An overview of Brexit by Marcus Burton, MTA President in his role as Chairman of the CECIMO Economic Committee
  • A summary of the EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement that is going through the ratification process (although it is worth noting that almost as it was being given, the Austrian Government indicated that it would not sign it).

Also during the exhibition, CELIMO held its biennial International Meeting at which presentations were given covering the economic and market situation in Europe, Japan, India and the USA.

Most of these presentations (from both meetings) concentrate on machine tools rather than any other aspects of the manufacturing technology sector, although where information refers to the customer sectors, it is, of course, relevant to the whole spectrum of MTA members.

If you would like copies of any of these documents and presentations, please contact Geoff Noon at MTA (e-mail:  gnoon@mta.org.uk) and remember to specify which you are specifically interested in.