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Economy in Brief

EU/EMU Indices Rise in August-Ho Hum
by Robert Brusca  August 28, 2015

The EU index continues to run stronger than the EMU index in the EU Commission index framework. The overall EU index stands in the 70.1 percentile of its historic queue while the EMU index stands in the 61.4 percentile of its queue. The countries that are EU members but not EMU members are doing better according to this gauge. This, of course, has a lot to do with the EMU countries that have been strapped to austerity programs.

The EU sectors and headline show that the overall gauge rose to 107 in August from 106.6 in July. The move up was boosted by consumer confidence that became less of a negative, by retailing that moved up smartly by 3.3 points on the month, by construction that moved up by one point, and by services that improved by 2.6 points on the month. Holding the gain back was the industrial sector where the index slipped on the month by 0.7 points.

The queue standings show that the sectors that are strongest relative to their respective historic values are retailing, which has been stronger only 1.2% of the time, consumer confidence, which has been stronger 15.3% of the time and the services sector which has been stronger 19.5% of the time. Consumer confidence is in good shape, but the retail sector is all but overflowing- rarely higher. However, construction stands only in its 52nd percentile and the industrial sector is only in its 55.7 percentile. Both of these sectors are being left behind with barely better than median-level readings.

Only 6 of 16 reporting EMU countries showed declines in their indices this month. But Greece remains in terrible straits, having fallen 7.5% in August after falling 10.4% in July. The Greek index has been weaker than its current value only 0.3% of the time. However, there are five countries at or near the bottom 30% of their historic queues. And on the upside only three members are in the top 20% of their respective queues of data; the same three are the only members in the top 70%. The EMU index stands in the 61.4 percentile of its queue, but an unweighted average of the member countries in the table only reaches 51.9%. Small economies are doing much worse than the larger ones. Fully 7 of 16 reporters are below their historic midpoints for the overall EU indices.

So while the EU and EMU indices have risen this month, the levels attained by the indices are still weak and the upward momentum is weak as well. The rise in the EU indices this month may have been a surprise, but it is not much of one. There is still little here in the way of good news or of trends that will carry beyond this month.

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