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Haver Analytics
| Mar 22 2024

IFO Shows Some Sharp Monthly Improvement

The German IFO survey made some significant improvements in March compared to February. The all-sector climate reading grows to -16.1 in March from -23.5 in February. The current conditions index registered a positive 0.6 reading in March after a -1.9 rating in February. The expectations index rose to -16.4 in March from -23.0 in February.

There are some substantial changes and improvements in the month-to-month readings; however, make no mistake about it, the IFO remains very weak. The climate reading, for example, has a rank standing in March at its 19.1 percentile compared to a ranking in at the 6.5 percentile in February. The all-sector current conditions ranking moves up to 13.9 percentile in March from the 11.7 percentile in February. All-sector expectations move up to the 13.4 percentile from the 3.9 percentile in February. These are substantial and significant moves in the month-to-month rankings and for the month-to-month diffusion readings; however, the current readings are still weak. In terms of the values reported last month, the current readings aren't really going to be pointing to an economy that's substantially changed from the readings that we saw a month ago.

However, what's new and what's interesting is there is a month-to-month improvement and it's the first one of some significant value that we've seen in some time and that could mark a turning point. The change is most substantial for expectations, which is also a relatively volatile category and something to keep an eye on. But it's the fact of having an improvement after such a long period of conditions remaining weak that is both impressive and hopeful.

Looking at the various sectors in climate section, construction has the strongest ranking in its 25th percentile - a bottom quartile ranking.

Under current conditions, retail and construction have above-50 percentile standings- above their historic medians. The service sector has the weakest stand-alone ranking in its 15.6 percentile.

Expectations readings show a still-weak 0.8 percentile standing for construction, just off the all-time low made last month. The service sector, with a 15.1 percentile standing, is the strongest ranking sector in expectations.

On balance, the IFO report is encouraging this month, but it is an empty victory since the sector responses and rankings are still so low. The industry level behavior and responses have a long way to go to boost the economy to normal again. Under current conditions, two industries have rankings above their historic medians; yet, three other industries lag badly. That March report is step ahead, but it is one step in a long journey back to normalcy.

  • Robert A. Brusca is Chief Economist of Fact and Opinion Economics, a consulting firm he founded in Manhattan. He has been an economist on Wall Street for over 25 years. He has visited central banking and large institutional clients in over 30 countries in his career as an economist. Mr. Brusca was a Divisional Research Chief at the Federal Reserve Bank of NY (Chief of the International Financial markets Division), a Fed Watcher at Irving Trust and Chief Economist at Nikko Securities International. He is widely quoted and appears in various media.   Mr. Brusca holds an MA and Ph.D. in economics from Michigan State University and a BA in Economics from the University of Michigan. His research pursues his strong interests in non aligned policy economics as well as international economics. FAO Economics’ research targets investors to assist them in making better investment decisions in stocks, bonds and in a variety of international assets. The company does not manage money and has no conflicts in giving economic advice.

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