Saturday, August 4, 2012

4/8/2012: Business Confidence in Ireland: KBC/ICA v PMI

As promised in the previous post covering the Services PMIs, I wanted to provide some analysis of confidence survey component of the PMIs. This is in light of this week's absolutely bizarre Business Confidence Survey report from KBC/ICA covered briefly here. The reason for why I am giving this survey so much attention is a simple one: the survey authors, in particular KBC, should have done their basic homework before they released the results. This homework would have entailed linking current activity to future business expectations to find out the size of the bias in the later induced by the former.

Here's the core point: businesses (not only in Ireland) tend to report upbeat expectations compared to current activity. And they tend to do so on average - independent of the current conditions. In addition, their expectations of the future are driven by the present conditions, which also implies systemic biases. To see this, simply link current activity to future expectations:

Not to induce any judgement on causality direction - the above pretty clearly shows that on average, expectations are more upbeat than actual activity: a 1 point change current activity is associated, in Irish services firms case, with 14.6 points higher expectations. In other words, we can have a tanking economic activity consistent with deep recession (as signaled by current activity PMI of, say 40) and yet business expectations on average will be reading 54.9 - a robust expansion.

Run through these numbers:

  • Since January 2008, Confidence reading for PMI averaged 60.2 - a massively 'upbeat' indication taken on its own. Meanwhile, actual PMI reading averaged 46.8 - a recessionary level reading for the Services sector.
  • In last 6 months, actual PMI averaged 50.8, Confidence for the 6 months period through January 2012 is 60.7.
Funny thing, this Confidence survey data is...  

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