23 March 2016
HKTDC Export Index 1Q16: Exporter Confidence Improves yet Remains in Negative Territory
The HKTDC Export Index monitors the current export performance of Hong Kong traders and gauges their near-term prospects.
- Hong Kong exporters’ confidence improved in 1Q16, with the HKTDC Export Index rebounding to 37.3.
- In terms of industry sectors, electronics saw the biggest improvement in 1Q16, with an index of 38.4. Despite this, any reading below the watershed of mark of 50 still indicates a sluggish export performance over the short-term.
- In terms of the major markets, exporters expressed a more positive sentiment than was seen in 4Q15. Of particular note, Japan recorded the highest reading - 47.4.
- Procurement activities were seen as likely to shrink in most industries, especially in the jewellery sector which reported its lowest reading since 3Q09. This may signal a fall in input costs and/or sluggish demand ahead.
- Labour cost pressure on the Chinese mainland persists. In 1Q16, 53% of respondents reported higher labour costs on the mainland during the surveyed quarter, compared with 50% in 4Q15.
The HKTDC Export Index rebounded to 37.3 in 1Q16 from 31.4 in 4Q15. Overall, exporters were less pessimistic with regard to their likely export performance over the short-term.
Except for companies operating in the clothing or timepieces sector, all the major industries reported higher readings for 1Q16. While machinery had the highest reading (38.9), electronics saw the biggest leap, moving from 7.1 to 38.4 in 1Q16. The indices for toys and jewellery, meanwhile, edged up to 31.9 and 28.3, respectively. These, however, were still well below the watershed of 50. While indicating improvement in exporters’ confidence, it also signals the likelihood of sluggish export performance over the short-term.
The indices for all major markets went up, but remained under 50. Exporters’ confidence was relatively higher towards Japan, which reported the highest reading for 1Q16 (47.4). This is followed by the US (46.3), the Chinese mainland (45.0) and the EU (44.8).
The Offshore Trade Index continued to fall, dropping to 27.3 in 1Q16, from 36.4 in 4Q15. This reflected the largely pessimistic sentiment with regard to Hong Kong exporters’ offshore trade performance (i.e. those shipments not passing through Hong Kong, but handled by Hong Kong exporters). With a lower reading than the HKTDC Export Index, Hong Kong’s offshore trade is likely to underperform Hong Kong’s overall exports in the near term.
The Trade Value Index increased to 41.6 in 1Q16, from 38.6 in 4Q15, yet stayed in “negative” territory. All major industries posted readings below 50, signalling lower unit prices in the near term. Despite this, electronics, jewellery and machinery exporters all gave higher readings compared with the previous quarter.
The Procurement Index went up to 36.3 in 1Q16, rising from 35.9 in 4Q15. A reading below the watershed of 50, however, still indicates that procurement activities are likely to shrink in the near term. In line with this, companies may be expecting a fall in input costs and/or sluggish demand ahead. In 1Q16, machinery and electronics recorded the highest readings of 38.9 and 37.0, respectively, while the index for jewellery has now dropped for two consecutive quarters. Its reading of 27.4 was the lowest since 3Q09.
The Employment Index edged up to 42.1 in 1Q16, rising from 38.9 in 4Q15. Except for machinery, all industries showed higher readings compared to the previous quarter. Hiring confidence was the highest – though virtually neutral - in the jewellery sector, which reported 49.1 in 1Q16, while clothing exporters reported the lowest reading (40.1).