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ECONOMIC NEWS

European Commission Economic Sentiment Indicator and Capacity Utilisation, May 2021:  The European Commission (EC) draws from a range of surveys to construct confidence indicators for six sectors of the economy and then uses five of these (financial services is not included in the ESI) to compile its Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI).  Because of the data collection periods, the month is that in which the data is published, although it really refers to the previous month so these results really apply to April despite the title.

The headline ESI increased strongly again for both the Euro-zone and the EU as a whole and now close to the peak level that was achieved in December 2017.  The main driver of this was a significant increase in the services sector, although there were also more modest increases for industry, retail trade, construction and consumers - although not part of the ESI calculation, there was also a strong improvement in confidence for the financial services sector.  Among the largest EU countries, Italy saw the strongest increase in its national ESI but there were also improvements in Poland, France, Netherlands, Germany and Spain.

Although there was only a small improvement in industry confidence, it reached a new all-time high;  however, the components of the calculation moved differently.  There was a large increase in the respondents’ assessment of total order books and a modest improvement in the stocks of finished products but expectations about output in the coming 3 months fell back from their all-time high in the previous survey.  Although not part of the confidence calculation, the survey also tracks export orders and output over the previous 3 months and both of these measures also improved.

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 it can be requested from MTA.

UK Productivity, 1st Quarter 2021:  Data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that whole economy productivity, measured by output per hour, increased by +1.0% compared to the first period of 2020 and was +0.8% higher than in the previous quarter.  The other way at looking at productivity is output per worker and this fell by -4.6% on the same basis reflecting, in part at least, the reduced hours that were worked compared to a year earlier which was mostly before the impact of Covid-19.

The increase in output per hour on both comparisons came because hours worked fell more than output (measured using gross value added).

Within the economy and compared to the 1st quarter of 2020, output per hour in manufacturing increased by +3.7%, construction grew by +7.8% and services was +1.6% higher - the weak point was non-manufacturing production (this covers extraction activities and utilities) where output per hour fell by -7.1%.

You can get more details from the ONS Statistical Bulletin which can be downloaded from their web-site at https://www.ons.gov.uk/releasecalendar (18 May) or you can request it from MTA.