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Belgian Business Sentiment Rebounds Despite German Drop

Belgian business confidence rebounded in April from a 3 1/2-year low in the prior month as gains in the manufacturing industry offset deterioration elsewhere in the economy.

The confidence index for Belgium rose to minus 14.7 from minus 15 in March, the Brussels-based National Bank of Belgium said today. That matched the median estimate of 12 economists in a Bloomberg survey. The March reading was the lowest since September 2009.

“It was only in the manufacturing industry that the business climate picked up,” the central bank said in the statement. “By contrast, business confidence in April deteriorated in business-related services, the building industry, and even more so in trade, for the third month running.”

An index of sentiment in the manufacturing industry increased to minus 16.9 in April from minus 18.4 in the prior month, driven by improved forecasts for both demand and employment, the central bank said.

“Conversely, in the trade sector, the loss of confidence can be mainly explained by a third successive decline in demand prospects,” the bank said.

The overall improvement in confidence in Belgium contrasts with a second straight monthly decline in business sentiment in Germany, Europe’s largest economy and one of Belgium’s main trading partners. The Ifo institute in Munich said today that its business climate index, based on a survey of 7,000 executives, dropped to 104.4 from 106.7 in March.

In Belgium’s manufacturing industry, the capacity utilization rate declined for a fifth straight quarter, falling to 75.2 percent in April from 75.6 percent in January, according to the central bank. That is the lowest since January 2010.

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