Global Business Outlook Points to Sustainable Economic Recovery

US businesses are growing more confident in their global trade outlook since the last half of 2009, pointing toward an expected increase in trade activity over the next six months. The latest HSBC Trade Confidence Index reveals that nearly three in five US respondents (58%) anticipate higher trade volumes, a 17 % increase compared to six months ago.

The index, which surveyed more than 5,000 small and mid-market businesses (SMEs) in 17 global markets, showed an overall positive outlook with an average global reading of 116 on a scale of zero to 200, with 100 as a neutral reading. This is up six points from the global reading in the last half of 2009 (110). Sentiment continues to be the highest among the emerging markets with United Arab Emirates (134), India (133) and Vietnam (132) and Brazil (129), illustrating heightened confidence in their local economies’ trade activity and growth. In the developed countries, US businesses’ confidence rose three points to 110 from 107 in the last half of 2009. All markets surveyed point toward a positive outlook except for France, which scored 95.

US businesses identify emerging markets as the most promising regions for growth. Based on responses, Latin America established itself as a popular region for trade among companies in the US. The US businesses looking at Latin America for growth nearly doubled from 14 % to 27 % in the last six months, surpassing Greater China (23%).

“The HSBC Trade Confidence Index consistently reveals that emerging markets in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America are leading the trade recovery and present an enormous opportunity for US exporters and importers,” said William Nowicki, head of trade and supply chain for HSBC North America. “Small and mid-size businesses worldwide are steadily becoming more optimistic about their global economic outlook and are confident in a sustainable rebound. However, there are still barriers to international growth. Foreign exchange volatility is one of the most commonly cited barriers followed by concerns over costs of essential services, such as shipping and storage, and trade regulation.”

US businesses overall are confident about their access to trade finance, with nearly 70% anticipating that access will remain at the same level and nearly one-quarter (23%) feeling that trade finance will increase over the next six months. The outlook remains stable on buyer default and supplier non-delivery risks, consistent with previous sentiment.

Of particular interest, US companies plan to demonstrate increased control over their buyer relationships by tightening their payment terms and duration, limiting the loan or credit amount or closely monitoring debt and accounting items.

In summary, the HSBC Trade Confidence Index found a range of signs in support of a positive global trade outlook:

  • Most respondents in Latin America (64%), Middle East (63%), Greater China (63%) and India (61%) expect an increase in trade volumes in the next six months. Globally, over half of companies (56%) including those in the US, the UK, Canada and Germany are optimistic about their outlook on trade volumes.
  • Global businesses are concerned about fluctuations in foreign exchange (FX) rates and trade regulations, with Greater China businesses appearing to be the least worried about the impact of trade regulations on their business but the most concerned about FX. US businesses also indicated that they are most concerned about FX (40%) and costs of essential services (39%).
  • One-third of businesses in the US and Canada are bearish about the impact of exchange rates on their businesses in the next six months. Among exporters and importers in Greater China, only 8% said that the impact of trade regulations would be unfavourable to their businesses compared to 34 % who said exchange rates may work against them.
  • The survey also suggests that intra-regional trade will continue to underpin global trade activity in the next six months. The US and Canada will focus on trade among themselves, as will companies within Latin America and companies within Europe. Hong Kong and mainland China companies will continue to focus on Greater China trade, including Macau and Taiwan.


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