Belgium: Businesses and consumers less confident in March
March 24, 2014
The National Bank of Belgium's (NBB) business confidence indicator fell to minus 4.4 points in March, marking a slight deterioration over the minus 4.0 points registered in February. March's reading, however, was better than the minus 5.0 points the market had expected. According to the NBB, businesses were less optimistic in the services sector and confidence among firms in the manufacturing sector deteriorated over the previous month. Conversely, confidence strengthened among construction business in the construction and trade sectors. FocusEconomics Consensus Forecast panelists expect fixed investment to expand 1.3% in 2014, which is unchanged over last month's projection. For 2015, the panel sees fixed investment growing 1.9%. Conversely, the consumer confidence indicator fell from minus 4.0 points in February to minus 8.0 points in March. The reading represented the first fall in consumer sentiment following the almost uninterrupted upward trend that began in April 2013. According to the NBB, the deterioration was largely due to the March announcement of various initiatives aimed at corporate restructuring, which will likely result in the loss of a considerable number of jobs. Accordingly, consumers' assessment of the employment situation deteriorated sharply over the previous month. In addition, households' expectations regarding their financial situations fell in March and their savings prospects worsened over the previous month. Panelists expect private consumption to grow 1.0% in 2014, which is unchanged from last month's projection. Next year, the panel expects that private consumption will grow 1.2%.
Author: Ricardo Aceves, Senior Economist