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FNB/BER Consumer Confidence

After holding steady between the third and fourth quarters of 2018, the FNB/BER Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) renewed its downward trajectory during 2019Q1. The deterioration in consumer sentiment during the first quarter mirrors the drop in the RMB/BER business confidence index and points to dismal growth in consumer spending in the first half of 2019. Although the national election in May could see a transitory uptick in consumer sentiment, real after-tax household income will likely remain under pressure throughout 2019.

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After remaining largely unchanged in 2018Q4, the FNB/BER Civil Confidence Index shed 8 points to register its lowest level ever of 10. Confidence was lower largely on the back of weaker activity growth, which also weighed on profitability.

The seasonally adjusted Absa Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose by 2.2 points to reach 47.2 index points in April. This was the first increase after three months of declines in the headline PMI. However, the PMI remains below the neutral 50-point mark and is more or less in line with the average recorded in the first quarter of 2019. This means that factory conditions stabilised at a fairly depressed level at the start of the second quarter.

A broad-based weakening in activity pushed confidence down to worrying lows. The RMB/BER BCI declined by a further three points to 28 in the first quarter of 2019. This is the lowest level since the 27 index points recorded in the second quarter of 2017, and before that, the deep recession of 2009. Striking in the first quarter results is how broad-based the weakness in activity has become. Since taking over the reins, President Ramaphosa has launched several initiatives to help reverse South Africa’s decline. But more than this is necessary to get South Africa out of its low-growth bind. Forceful, and in some instances, unpopular structural reforms must also form part of the mix.

After holding steady between the third and fourth quarters of 2018, the FNB/BER Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) renewed its downward trajectory during 2019Q1. The deterioration in consumer sentiment during the first quarter mirrors the drop in the RMB/BER business confidence index and points to dismal growth in consumer spending in the first half of 2019. Although the national election in May could see a transitory uptick in consumer sentiment, real after-tax household income will likely remain under pressure throughout 2019.