Belgian Business Confidence Jumps to Highest Since February 2012

Belgian business confidence climbed more than economists forecast in August to the highest in 1 ½ years, led by gains in the manufacturing and business-related services industries.

The confidence indicator rose to minus 8.6 this month from minus 12 in July, the Brussels-based National Bank of Belgium said today in a statement. Economists had predicted an increase to minus 11.3, according to the median of 13 forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey.

The euro-area economy returned to growth in the second quarter after six consecutive quarters of contraction. The recovery has been led by Germany, Europe’s largest economy and one of Belgium’s biggest trading partners. German business confidence is forecast to rise for a fourth month in August.

The Ifo institute’s business climate index, based on a survey of 7,000 executives, is projected to increase to 107 this month from 106.2 in July, according to a separate Bloomberg News survey of economists. Ifo releases the August report at 10 a.m. in Munich on Aug. 27.

In Belgium, “the second improvement in a row in the manufacturing industry can be attributed to a more favorable assessment of total order books and a more positive sentiment regarding demand and employment,” the central bank said in the statement.

The 3.4-point increase was the biggest jump since November 2010 as order-book assessments in manufacturing improved and executives became less pessimistic about demand and employment, according to the bank. Assessment of activity in business-related services also increased, as did employment and demand expectations in trade.

Economic Expansion

Gross domestic product in Belgium rose 0.1 percent in the second quarter from the prior period, marking the first quarter-on-quarter economic expansion since the first three months of 2012, according to an initial estimate from the central bank last month.

The manufacturing industry gauge increased 4 points to minus 9.8, while the trade curve climbed 3 points to minus 14.1. The index for business-related services advanced 4 points to minus 1.1, and that for the nation’s building industry added 0.3 point to minus 8.6.

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