After moderate decreases in 2018-Q3, the euro-area (EA) and EU Economic Sentiment Indicators (ESI) posted more marked losses of -3.6 points in the fourth quarter. In both cases, the losses were particularly strong in December.
At 107.6 (EU) and 107.3 (EA) points, both indicators are down to their lowest levels in about two years, though remaining well above their long-term averages of 100.
EU and EA confidence weakened among consumers and managers in all business sectors, with the exception of the EU construction sector. Confidence declines were particularly strong among consumers, managers in the EA industry sector, and managers in the EU services and retail trade sectors.
Among the seven largest EU economies, 2018-Q4 brought significant losses in France and Italy (both decreased by 3.5 points). Sentiment declined noticeably also in the UK (-2.8), Germany (-2.6), the Netherlands (-1.5) and Spain (-1.4). Only sentiment in Poland (+0.1) remained broadly stable.
Capacity utilisation in manufacturing decreased in both the EA and the EU, by 0.3 and 0.5 percentage points (pp) compared to the last survey in July. Currently, capacity utilisation is at 83.9% (EA) and 83.4% (EU), i.e. still well above the two regions’ respective long-term averages of around 81%. Capacity utilisation in services saw a 0.5pp-decrease in the EA and a 0.1pp-decrease in the EU. The current rates of 90.1% (EA) and 89.6% (EU) correspond to levels well above the series’ long-term averages (calculated from 2011 onwards) of around 88.8%.