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Economy in Brief

Belgian National Bank Consumer Survey
by Robert Brusca   November 22, 2010

For Belgium it may not be a home run but it is definitely a hit for extra bases. The November Consumer confidence reading from the Belgian National Bank survey is up to zero which is well above the level of -6 which is the 10-Year average and median for this Index. The Belgian consumer confidence index stands in the 77th percentile of its queue of ten year readings, a strong standing. Moreover, as the confidence reading has gone up, the fear of unemployment has dropped consistently and dramatically. Together these readings are a powerful base on which to try and erect a more positive outlook. Belgium is a small e-Zone country and economy but it sits at a critical spot in the Zone and so its economy tends to be a good bellwether of what is going on in the Zone.

Belgians tend to be optimistic. I say that because the average score for the assessment of the last 12-months among Belgian respondents has been as assessment of -27 compared to a forward-looking assessment of -10. Adjusted for whatever bias may be there the forward looking expectation, it stands in the 95th percentile of its own range compared to the backward looking assessment which stands in the 80th percentile of this range. Belgians are even more optimistic about the future given that they assessed the past 12-months fairly well. This is reflected in their assessment of whether this is 'a good time to buy.' That assessment stands in the 83rd percentile of its range.

Belgium's unemployment diffusion reading stands at 17 down from 27 just three months ago and 55 12-months ago. These are huge changes in that response. The current reading stands in the 29th percentile of its range an elevated, but more moderate reading for a percentile standing. Belgium has gone from be fearful of unemployment, and all the ills it brings, to only mildly worried about it. At a reading of 17 the worry of unemployment is well below its average and median values which reside in the high twenties in terms of raw scores.

Still, there is some lingering reluctance about the future. Belgians evaluate the next 12-months as a time to that is favorable to make Household Purchases at -20. That reading stands only in the 20% percentile of its range, one of the lower readings. It contrasts sharply with the 83 percentile rating that evaluates the situation right now as a good time to buy.

The financial situation both past and future is assessed and near ‘middling' standing the near the mid-point of its queue ranking for both future and past venues. The current financial situation is assessed as better than either of these in the 76th percentile standing of its range. Perhaps that is a note of skepticism about how good things are now versus some uncertainty about the future

On balance the Belgian Bank survey is really rather upbeat and for all the problems besieging Europe it puts the consumer on a higher pedestal than most would think could be achieved in this environment. It remains to be seen if the rest of Europe goes along with the Belgians or the Belgians just have some sort of indomitable spirit of their own...or if they are simply in a mode of denial.

Belgian National Bank Consumer Survey
  Monthly readings Previous Readings Since 1990
Nov-10 Oct-10 Sep-10 3Mo Ago 6Mo Ago 12Mo Ago % of Queue
Consumer Confidence 0 -2 -4 -4 -13 -10 77.7%
Economic Situation
 Next 12-Mos 8 3 3 7 -6 10 95.2%
 Last 12-Mos -12 -19 -17 -15 -37 -34 80.1%
Price Trends
 Next 12-Mos 18 20 18 21 16 -5 52.2%
 Last 12-Mos 55 51 48 46 40 25 89.6%
Unemployment Forecast 17 23 24 27 47 55 29.1%
Major Household Purchases
  Next 12-Mos -20 -19 -17 -16 -22 -22 20.3%
  Favorable to buy at present? 15 14 10 8 -1 6 83.3%
Financial Situation of HH
 Next 12-Mos 2 3 1 1 -1 3 51.8%
 Last 12-Mos -7 -6 -9 -12 -12 -12 45.8%
 Current situation appraisal 21 20 17 17 18 17 76.1%
Household Savings
 Next 12-Mos 6 7 4 3 3 3 24.7%
 Favorable to save at present? -27 -24 -22 -20 -29 -27 18.3%
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