Russian Services PMI (Markit and HSBC) came in with a slight improvement in March, rising to 46.1 from 41.3 in February and signalling slower rate of contraction. Services PMI is now reading sub-50 for the 6th month in a row, with 3mo average for Q1 2015 at abysmal 43.8 against Q4 2014 average of 45.9 and Q1 2014 reading of 49.6.
Per Markit release: "Russian service providers signalled some confidence that the recent downturn will prove transitory, with over a third of panellists forecasting some growth of activity from present levels over the next 12 months." Nonetheless, forward expectations are not translating in an improvement in operating conditions today, so "…service sector firms continued to shed staff during March. Latest data showed employment falling for a thirteenth successive month, and again at a marked pace. Despite a reduction in capacity, service providers had sufficient spare resources… Manufacturers also signalled spare capacity during March, with both employment and outstanding business being cut, albeit at slower rates."
As the result of improved (slower) rate of decline in Services activity, Russian Composite PMI also moderated the rate of decline, rising from 44.7 in February to 46.8 in March. As with Services sector, Composite PMI is now running below 50.0 for the sixth month in a row. 3mo average through Q1 2015 is at 45.7, which is much worse than already poor 48.0 average for Q4 2014 and 49.2 average for Q1 2014.
As chart above confirms, Russian economy is in a state of 'getting worse more slowly' rather than in a state of 'getting better'. Positive outlook over the next 12 months (see details here: http://trueeconomics.blogspot.ie/2015/04/2415-russia-business-outlook-q1-2015.html remains subdued, with Q1 2015 improvement on Q4 2014 failing to restore expectations to 2012-2013 average, let alone to the recovery-consistent 2010-2011 averages.