KARACHI:

The State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP) business confidence index (BCI) improved by 1.8% to a three-month high at 53.3 in April 2024, suggesting that the businesses’ trust lost in the past is gradually returning to normalcy in the country.

According to the result of the survey conducted by SBP in collaboration with the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) in late April 2024, the improvement in the business confidence index “is driven by the services sector… the services sector BCI increased by 2.6% to 54.7.”

“On the other hand, the industry sector BCI decreased slightly by 0.4 points to 49.9,” according to the survey results published on Monday.

Read also: SBP holds key policy rate at 22%

This is the second such monthly survey conducted post the February 2024 general elections held in the country. Businesses are giving high importance to the ongoing negotiations by the government with the IMF to secure the next loan program. The government expects a staff level agreement for the $6-8 billion programme by June-July 2024.

The businesses, however, find the maintenance of the key policy rate (interest rate) at a record high at 22% for the past 10 months as a key hurdle in the way of revival in industrial output and improvement in the service sector, it was learned.

Current sentiment:

The survey report further added that the current business confidence index (CBCI) increased by 2.4 points to 50.1 in April 2024 over the previous wave. The services sector contributed to this change with an increase of 3.4 points. On the other hand, the CBCI of the industry sector decreased slightly by 0.6 points to 45.5.

“The disaggregation of responses reveals a decrease in the negative views, while the positive and neutral views increased in the current wave,” the report reads.

“The overall share of negative views (negative and very negative) decreased by 3.5% to 30.4% in the current wave. On the other hand, positive (positive and very positive) views increased by 2.7% to 27% in the current wave.”

Outlook:

The expected business confidence index (EBCI) increased by 1.2 points to 56.9 in April 2024. The services sector contributed to this change whose EBCI increased by 1.7 points to 57.8. On the other hand, the industry sector EBCI decreased slightly by 0.2 points to 54.3, the report added.

The disaggregation of responses shows an increase in the positive views, while the negative and neutral views decreased in the current wave.

The overall share of positive views (positive and very positive) increased by 3% to 40.5%. On the other hand, the share of negative views decreased by 1.2% to 16.6% and the neutral views decreased by 1.8% to 42.9% in April 2024.

Purchasing index:

The purchasing managers index (PMI) increased slightly by 0.2 points to 49.9 in the current wave from the previous wave. It is worth mentioning here that the PMI was last seen in the positive zone in June 2022.

The PMI’s disaggregation shows a slight decrease in the indices of three out of five of its components. A decrease of 0.2 points was observed in the total orders booked and the total number of employees followed by the quantity of raw material purchases which decreased by 0.1 points.

The firms’ business activities remained the same at 48.4. On the other hand, average supplier delivery times improved by 1.7 points in April 2024.

Inflation expectations:

The inflation expectations (IE) of businesses decreased by 3.3 points and reached 66.1 in April 2024. Both the industry and the services sectors contributed to the decrease in overall IE. The inflation expectations of the industry sector decreased by 4.7 points and those of the services sector by 1.1 points.

Employment:

The current employment index decreased by 0.8 points to 50.1 in the current survey wave. This decrease was contributed by both the industry and the services sector which decreased by 0.1 and 0.9 points respectively in April 2024 from the previous wave.

The overall expected employment index increased slightly by 0.4 points to 55.9 in April 2024. This change was driven by the services sector which increased by 0.7 points. On the other hand, the index for the industry sector decreased slightly by 0.3 points in April 2024.

Capacity utilisation:

The average current capacity utilisation (ACCU) of the manufacturing sector (within the industry sector) decreased by 4.1% to 63.6 in April 2024.



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