Belgium: Forward-looking indicators paint mixed picture
March 22, 2012
In March, the business confidence index published by the National Bank of Belgium fell to minus 9.6 points from minus 7.7 points in February, which represents the first decline after the indicator improved for three consecutive months. The reading surprised private sector analysts, as they had expected the index to improve to minus 7.0 points. The March survey showed that business sentiment deteriorated in almost all sub-categories, especially in the trade sector. In contrast, business-related services saw confidence improve compared to the previous month. At the same time, however, consumer sentiment picked up in March, with the Central Bank's consumer confidence indicator improving to minus 12 points from minus 20 points in February, which had marked the lowest level since April 2009. According to the Bank, consumers revealed a less pessimistic assessment about economic prospects for the year ahead, as well as a less negative opinion regarding their financial situation for the next 12 months. Likewise, households appeared to be more optimistic about the labour market.
Author: Ricardo Aceves, Senior Economist