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The business tendency survey indicators cover a standard set of indicators for four economic sectors: manufacturing, construction, retail trade and other services. This includes an indicator of overall business conditions or business confidence in each sector. The consumer opinion survey indicators cover a restricted set of indicators on consumer confidence, expected economic situation and price expectations.
Business and consumer opinion (tendency) surveys provide qualitative information that has proved useful for monitoring the current economic situation. Typically they are based on a sample of enterprises or households and respondents are asked about their assessments of the current situation and expectations for the immediate future. For enterprise surveys this concerns topics such as production, orders, stocks etc. and in the case of consumer surveys their intentions concerning major purposes, economic situation now compared with the recent past and expectations for the immediate future. Many survey series provide advance warning of turning points in aggregate economic activity as measured by GDP or industrial production. Such series are known as leading indicators in cyclical analysis. These types of survey series are widely used as component series in composite leading indicators.
The main characteristic of these types of surveys is that instead of asking for exact figures, they usually ask for the direction of change e.g. a question on tendency by reference to a “normal” state, e.g. of production level. Possible answers are generally of the three point scale type e.g. up/same/down or above normal/normal/below normal for enterprise surveys and of the five point scale type e.g. increase sharply/increase slightly/remain the same/fall slightly/fall sharply for consumer surveys. In presenting the results as a time series, only the balance is shown. That is “same” or “normal” answers are ignored and the balance is obtained by taking the difference between percentages of respondents giving favourable and unfavourable answers.
Virtually all business tendency and consumer opinion survey data are presented as time series of balances in this dataset, either in raw or seasonally adjusted form. Very few series are presented as indices, and where these exist they have generally been converted from underlying balances by countries before submitting the data to the OECD.
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