The business outlook for Finnish companies over the next six months is slightly brighter than before. The overall outlook is expected to improve gradually. The companies that responded to the survey anticipated moderate growth in their sales and production output. Personnel figures were expected to remain virtually unchanged.
In January, the Confederation of Finnish Industries asked companies to evaluate their business outlook for the first half of 2017. The survey concerns activity in Finland.
According to the Business Tendency Survey, the slow turnaround in the economy that began early in 2016 picked up slightly towards the end of the year. In construction, the current situation is described as average. In manufacturing and services, the outlook is estimated to be slightly weaker than average, despite the sectors’ recovery.
Improved expectations as the overall outlook recovers gradually
The general business outlook balance indicator for all companies rose to a slightly positive level in January. The overall outlook is expected to recover gradually in the first half of this year.
The construction sector had the most positive expectations. The business outlook balance indicator was +19 in January (+1 in October). The outlook indicator for service companies was +13 in January (+4 in October). In manufacturing, the indicator improved to +7 (-1 in October).
Moderate growth expected in the first half
The number of new orders received in manufacturing grew slightly compared with the final quarter of last year. The growth in the number of orders is expected to pick up in the coming months. The order books continue to be lower than average. The number of orders in construction is also forecast to grow slightly in the first half. The order books are slightly lower than normal.
In both manufacturing and construction, output grew somewhat at the end of last year. In the next few months, growth is expected to remain moderate in manufacturing and even fairly rapid in construction. In the service sector, sales have also grown somewhat. The moderate growth is forecast to continue in the first half of this year.
The capacity utilisation rate in manufacturing has remained near the long-term average. In January, 73% of respondents indicated that their production capacity was fully utilised (75% in October).
Demand is rather lacklustre despite a slight upturn
The labour force has grown slightly in construction and services. In manufacturing, the decline in the labour force halted towards the end of the year. In the coming months, the labour force is expected to remain stable in manufacturing and services, whereas in construction it is likely to increase somewhat.
Sales prices are expected to remain unchanged in manufacturing and construction, while in services they are expected to rise slightly. There is major variation in the profitability forecasts of companies. On average, profitability is forecast to remain at the current level over the coming months, except in manufacturing, where it is expected to improve slightly.
Demand was said to have picked up slightly, although many companies still face a weak market situation. About one-third of all businesses described their demand as modest. Recruitment difficulties have remained unchanged – they are a considerable problem in construction and certain service sectors, but these problems are clearly less common in manufacturing. The availability of financing was considered an obstacle to operations in only 2–4% of the respondent companies in the main sectors.
EK Business Tendency Survey
The Business Tendency Survey is published four times a year by the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK). The survey has been carried out regularly since 1966. It is part of the European Commission’s Joint Harmonised EU Programme of Business and Consumer Surveys, which is partially funded by the EU. In January 2017, 1,324 companies employing approximately 310,000 people in Finland replied to the survey.