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Business Monitor for May 2017
(94 responses, 65% exporters)

Comments on May Monitor Data

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.


  • Another very good month, especially given the circumstances. Prospecting numbers are really positive with very few companies reporting declines in enquiry levels.
  • Orders up substantially month-on-month with around half of respondents recording gains in UK and export orders.
  • Companies still recruiting with the three-month balance now running at +30 well ahead of last year's +20 which was already thought to be very strong.
  • Investment picked up again with over half saying they're 'investing in all areas'.
  • Positive month in terms of finance availability with good positive balances for working and for investment finance.
  • The Monitor has been recording positive balances for finance availability basically since November with very few companies reporting difficulties, viz on average since November 2% for working capital and 4% for investment finance.
  • Confidence remains positive but unchanged. Three-month average +18 (+8 a year ago).

Statistical commentary


  • Strong performance from these lead indicators with nearly two in five firms reporting gains in UK and export enquiries
  • The Downers' share remains small, in double digit-land for exporters.
  • As a result, the 3-month running averages are still well ahead of last two years:
    • 2017 average balances                   UK +32           Export +33
    • 2016 average balances                   UK +17           Export +11
    • 2015 average balances                   UK +4              Export -1


  • May orders sprang back up after April's disappointing weakness with around half of all respondents reporting gains.
  • The number of companies reporting orders lower almost halved on UK business and fell 38% on exports.
  • The current 3-month averages have strengthened significantly for UK business and exports remain strong and well ahead of the last two years:
    • 2017 average balances                   UK +18          Export +22
    • 2016 average balances                   UK+3              Export +6
    • 2015 average balances                   UK -3              Export +4


  • Slight increase in the jobs count, but the three-month average is now running at +30 compared with +20 a year ago which was already considered high at the time.


  • A big increase in the share of firms reporting "investing in all areas", up to 54%. Three-month average is 41%, exactly the same share as in 2016.


  • Monthly balance positive and clean across both working and investment finance with three-month average running at +12 and +6 respectively.
  • Balances have been positive since November with very few firms reporting difficulties (average 2% for working and 4% for investment).


  • No change in confidence which remains realistically positive, maybe reflecting good short term immediate outlook but also linked to long term, where there is still much uncertainty.
  • The 3-month running average is +18 compared with +8 a year ago.

The Monitor (Click graphs for larger image and data)


  • choice of statements in full:
    1. Developing projects but not committing to them
    2. Investing in all areas of the business


Access to Finance

Monthly Changes in Confidence