New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (Inc)
Media release, 1 October 2019
NZIER Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion
Embargoed until 10am 1 October 2019
The latest NZIER Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion (QSBO) shows a further drop in business confidence in the September quarter. A net 35 percent of businesses expect a worsening in general economic conditions – still the weakest level since March 2009.
There was also a decline in firms’ own trading activity, which is a better indicator of demand in the New Zealand economy. The net 11 percent of businesses reporting demand fell over the quarter brings this measure to its weakest level since September 2010. The result suggests annual GDP growth will ease below 1 percent later this year.
Manufacturing sector remains the most pessimistic
Although there was some improvement in sentiment amongst manufacturers, the manufacturing sector remains the most downbeat of the sectors surveyed. The continued weakening in both domestic and export demand continues to weigh on profitability in the manufacturing sector. The continued uncertainty over how the trade war between the US and China will play out is dampening manufacturing demand globally. We expect this uncertainty will remain a headwind for the manufacturing sector over the coming year.
Meanwhile, there are signs construction demand is slowing. Building sector firms have lowered their output expectations, while the measure of architects’ activity in their own office points to a reduced pipeline of residential and commercial construction. This is consistent with the drop in firms’ intentions to invest in buildings over the coming year.
Retailers are also more downbeat in the face of weaker demand. Profitability in the retail sector is at the weakest level since September 2009, as retailers struggle to pass on rising costs by raising prices.
Firms more cautious about expanding
The combination of intense cost pressures and weak pricing power continues to weigh on profitability across most sectors. This is making firms more cautious when it comes to hiring and investing. A net 10 percent of firms cut staff numbers – the weakest level in this hiring measure since September 2012. Added to the cautious tone was the decline in investment intentions for buildings and plant and machinery, with both measures reaching their lowest levels since September 2009.
Firms downbeat across all regions
The downbeat mood was prevalent across all regions, but the provinces were particularly pessimistic. Over half of businesses on the West Coast and Nelson expect a deterioration in general economic conditions over the coming months.
The drop in firms’ own trading activity suggests further slowing in economy
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The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research has conducted its Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion since 1961. It is New Zealand’s longest-running business opinion survey. Each quarter we ask around 4,300 firms about whether business conditions will deteriorate, stay the same, or improve. The responses yield information about business trends much faster than official statistics and act as valuable leading indicators about the future state of the New Zealand economy. Long term series derived from the survey are held at the NZIER and are available to NZIER members via our website at www.nzier.org.nz.