The ZEW Index is a survey of the economic sentiment of financial market experts in Germany. It measures expectations for the German economy over the next six months. The survey is conducted by the Centre for Economic Research (ZEW). The indicator is based on responses from analysts and economists from banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions. It is regarded as an important indicator for assessing economic activity in Germany and is closely monitored by many investors. Currently, the value of this indicator has reached a positive reading for the first time since February 2022 (16.9 points), which could mean that the situation of this economy could be improving. What else could we learn from the survey?
Evaluation of the economic situation
The January survey was conducted among 179 analysts and specialists. Regardless of the region assessed, the majority of specialists view the current economic situation negatively. The worst performer here is China, where as many as 77% of respondents view the current economic situation negatively. Second from the bottom is Germany with 60.3%. What may seem interesting is the mildly negative assessment of the US economy, currently at minus 5 points, which is a drop from the previous positive reading of 6.8 points.
China also ranks first in terms of perceptions of the future. As many as 58.9% of respondents answered that the situation for this economy would improve (previously 41.9%). This may be linked to the expected easing of the 'zero COVID' policy. Similarly, respondents answered about the behaviour of the SSE Composite index (56% positive responses), to which we could gain exposure through the iShares MSCI China ETF (MCHI).
Source: Conotoxia MT5, MCHI, Weekly
The future of the German economy was assessed similarly to the euro area as a whole. The ZEW index reached 16.9 points and 16.7 points respectively. This is a significant improvement on the previous reading, which rose by more than 40 points in both cases. 44% of specialists forecast that the value of the DAX index (DE40) would increase, while 38.1% of respondents believe that it would remain unchanged. There is a noticeable improvement in sentiment relative to the last survey for all indices.
Source: Conotoxia MT5, DE40, Weekly
Despite the negative reading of the ZEW indicator for the future of the US economy, at minus 6.7 points, we continue to see an improvement on the last reading, which was minus 23.3 points. One could conclude that more important than the value of a given indicator is its trend of change. A more optimistic view is taken of the future of the Dow Jones Industrial index (US30), with 48.2% of respondents expecting it to increase in value (previously 41.1%), while 31% believe it would remain unchanged.
Source: Conotoxia MT5, US30, Weekly
The foreign exchange market and interest rates
The survey questions also focused on two currency pairs: the euro to the US dollar and the euro to the Chinese yuan. In both cases, survey's experts expect a significant strengthening of the European currency. The biggest change is expected for the EUR/USD pair, where as many as 53.5% of respondents expect an increase (previously 46.2%) and 33.5% assume no major change.
Source: Conotoxia MT5, EURUSD, Weekly
The positive attitude towards a strengthening of the euro appears to be linked to interest rate expectations. Almost unanimously, 87.1%, respondents were in favour of an increase in euro area interest rates in the short term. However, they are less positive about increases in the long term (we could assume more than six months), where 48.3% of respondents expect rates to rise and 36.5% expect no change.
In second place in terms of expected interest rate increases is the United States. 79.2% of respondents see a further tightening of monetary policy in the forthcoming FOMC decision. In the long term, 38% of respondents expect an increase and 39.8% expect no change. These expectations seem to be reflected in US bond yields. Long-term 10-year bonds have lower yields than short-term ones (e.g. 2-year bonds). Currently, this difference is 0.65 percentage points. This situation may seem illogical, as why would we want to receive less for holding our funds longer. Historically, a similar relationship has usually heralded a period of recession or slowdown in the economy, which, it seems, we are beginning to feel today.
Grzegorz Dróżdż, Junior Market Analyst of Conotoxia Ltd. (Conotoxia investment service)
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