Comments on April Monitor
This month it is particularly important to note: The Monitor records only the number/share of companies, not the size of orders or number of jobs etc.
- Good month overall with large proportions of firms reporting performance levels the same or better than in March when the Monitor set records, so that the month-on-month balance comparisons can be misleading (e.g. on export orders). The standout exception in this generally benign picture for enquiries, jobs, investment and confidence is 'UK orders' where 40% of firms said their orders were down this month, rather similar to last year's 39%
- Finance does seem to be easier to come by for those companies that want it.
- Confidence is still positive but a dip in the overall balance may reflect a period where contingency plans are increasingly being reviewed.
- Prospecting returns continue to show a positive picture with April's numbers strong and for the most part consolidating the powerful performance in Q1.
- The Downers' share remains small despite a doubling of the numbers to 15% on UK business. Meanwhile only 7% of exporters reported enquiries down in April.
- There were significant increases in the share of firms reporting prospects at the same levels as last month, which were themselves at record levels.
- As a result, the 3-month running averages are still well ahead of last two years:
- 2017 average balances UK +36 Export +36
- 2016 average balances UK +18 Export +15
- 2015 average balances UK +9 Export -1
- The inevitable softening from March has gone a bit further when it comes to actual orders.
- The share of companies reporting orders up shrank 17 points and they all ended up in the 'Down' column to create negative balance (-5).
- The reaction amongst exporters was in some respects more modulated. The 39 point decline amongst companies reporting gains was split between 'Samers' (28) and 'Downers' (11) also producing a small negative balance.
- These plus the earlier results mean the current 3-month averages are well ahead of the last two years:
- 2017 average balances UK +11 Export +23
- 2016 average balances UK+4 Export +5
- 2015 average balances UK +1 Export +9
- There's another slight increase in the number of vacancies and a stronger balance reflecting the opportunities for workers at all levels in the sector.
April's investment returns maintained March's a more coherent pattern with nearly two in five firms reporting investment in all areas and 18% saying they are investing in skills development and training but not capital investment and a quarter developing projects but not committing to them.
- The overall returns for Q1 were positive (+2 and +7 for working and investment capital respectively) and strengthened in April so that the running averages since November indicate the finance is easier to obtain that it was last year (+6 and + 8 for working and investment capital compared with -6 and -3 over the same period a year ago)
- Confidence still positive but pauses ahead of the Brexit negotiations (and maybe the General Election)
- The 3-month running average is +20 compared with +9 a year ago and +7 in 2015.
The Monitor (Click
graphs for larger image and data)
- choice of statements in full:
- Developing projects but not committing
- Investing in all areas of the business