Asian firms’ sentiment bounces from low but recession fears grow

19 September, 2019 12:00 AM printer

SINGAPORE: Confidence among companies in Asia lifted slightly in the September quarter from 10-year lows, but most firms do not plan on hiring or expect business to pick up as they see a risk of a global recession looming, a Thomson Reuters/Insead survey found.

The Thomson Reuters/Insead Asian Business Sentiment Index tracking firms’ six-month outlook rose five points to 58 in the survey, report agencies.

A reading above 50 means optimistic respondents outnumbered pessimists.

The latest showing, though, means the index has not risen above the mid-60s for a year and is one of the seven weakest readings since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.

“We are in a state of almost permanent uncertainty, which is not leading yet to a crisis but I think at some point we are going to see the cost of it,” said Antonio Fatas, a Singapore-based economics professor at global business school Insead.

“Some investments are going to be postponed, some investments are going to be stopped and little by little the engine of growth is going to slow down.”

Respondents rated a global recession as the top risk, overhauling trade-war fears which had topped the table for the previous six quarters.

A total of 102 companies from a range of sectors responded to the survey, conducted in 11 Asia-Pacific countries where 45 per cent of the world’s population lives and almost a third of global gross domestic product is generated.

Participants included firms from automaking to technology such as Canon Inc, SoftBank Group Corp and Hero MotoCorp Ltd.

The survey was conducted from Aug 30 to Sept 13, as global markets rallied on signs of a thaw in US-China trade tensions.

The trade war has also proven a boon for some, as businesses relocate from China to South-east Asia and elsewhere to avoid tariffs.

However, cool responses on hiring plans and the sales outlook suggest that any optimism is muted, and unlikely to be solid enough to drive investment and spending.


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