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SMEs with very cautious price expectations despite high spirits
Frankfurt (ots) -
- Situation for SMEs marginally better; expectations slightly worse - Large-scale enterprises noticeably more optimistic than in the previous month - Price expectations appear to point towards deflation
The upturn is still on track. According to the current KfW ifo SME Barometer, neither the conflict in eastern Ukraine, nor the economic slowdown in China, nor the risk of falling consumer prices in Europe are significantly detracting from the sentiment. With 22.1 balance points in April, the SME business climate appeared to have barely changed from the previous month's three-year high. Even the assessments of the current situation and the business expectations are holding steady at what is a virtually constant high level:
- The assessments of the current business situation increased marginally by 0.3 points to 31.1 balance points - a two-and-a-half year high that indicates solid economic growth going into the second quarter.
- Future business expectations, on the other hand, are virtually as good (-0.8 points to 13.0 balance points). This consolidation is plausible given the high level that has already been reached, as further improvements will become increasingly difficult.
In contrast, large-scale enterprises were noticeably more optimistic than they were in March. After declining in the previous month, their business expectations increased by 1.9 points to 15.1 balance points in April. As large companies' assessments of the current situation only fell slightly at the same time (-0.5 points to 25.2 balance points), their business climate climbed to 20.4 balance points after increasing 0.8 points and thus reached the highest level since July 2011 - as was also the case back in February of this year.
"However, we are concerned about companies' price expectations, which have been low for some time now despite consistently high climate indicators in both company size categories," explained Dr Jörg Zeuner, Chief Economist of the KfW Group. Sales price expectations, meanwhile, recovered slightly in April (SMEs: +0.4 points to -0.9 balance points; large-scale enterprises: +2.0 points to -0.8 balance points). Yet when measured against the positive economic sentiment, they are atypically cautious and remain below the long-term average - as they have been for most of the last two years. "This indicates that the pressure on prices throughout Europe is clearly leaving its mark in Germany too - despite perceptibly better capacity utilisation compared with many other eurozone countries," added Dr Zeuner.
He went on to state that there is still confidence regarding the economy. "Even if the quarterly growth rates drop again during the course of 2014 to a more moderate level compared with the start of the year, we can expect at least 2% economic growth this year," he forecasted. In the international arena, the US proved to be a driving force yet again, while China is apparently proceeding very cautiously with respect to converting its national economy. Dr Zeuner believes that these are developments worthy of confidence. He also adds that the poor prospects in Europe and the unhealthily low European inflation rates are still risks which could force the ECB to take action - and justifiably so.
A detailed analysis including data tables and charts relating to the current KfW ifo SME Barometer can be found at www.kfw.de/mittelstandsbarometer.