• IBR Q4/2015

Volatility expected to remain for 2016.

Business optimism rose slightly in Q4 in Thailand from -8% to 4% in Grant Thornton's quarterly business survey. This was generally reflected across most areas showing increased optimism for areas like revenue, selling prices, exports, profitability, investment in new buildings, investment in plants and machinery, R&D, increased access to finance, and reduction in red tape.

However, areas that continued to decline were plans to increase the workforce, availability of skilled workers, ICT infrastructure and transport infrastructure.

Within ASEAN, Malaysia reported increased optimism in Q4 although that was off a very low base compared to Q3 so remains low (from -28% to -14%); Singapore's optimism declined (from -14% to -16%) reflecting continued pressure on the island economy and its exposure to Malaysia and global trade; the Philippines's perennial optimism was only slightly diminished (from 86% to 84%); and Indonesia had a strong rise in optimism (from 36% to 56%), although this may not be sustained given Indonesia missed its GDP growth target for 2015. Globally, business optimism in Q4 remained relatively firm with European companies showing some resilience.

Andrew McBean, Partner and specialist on the ASEAN and the AEC commented, “The optimism in Thailand partially stems from just looking forward to a new year with a better sense of hope. Also, many analysts had been predicting that 2016 would be better for Thailand than a dismal 2015. This reflects not so much increased optimism but just less pessimism.”

Grant Thornton’s research finds that despite revenue expectations in China falling from 33% to 21% this quarter, across Asia Pacific this has only shifted from 38% to 36%. Similarly, Chinese export expectations slipped from 14% to just 6% but across the region in Q4 this was at 11%, down only very slightly from 12%.
    
Globally, business optimism heading into 2016 stands at net 36% - only slightly down from Q3 2015 and just above the 35% recorded a year ago. Net 38% of EU businesses are optimistic about their economy over the next 12 months, the same as in Q3. Businesses in Latin America report big quarterly increases in optimism.

Andrew added, “Within all of ASEAN and Asia Pacific we can expect continued volatility for the whole of 2016 due to the manufacturing slow-down in China, tepid and uneven global economic recovery and geo-political security concerns stemming from the Middle East, Korea and, more locally, the South China Seas.”

“The global economy continues to change and evolve, with shifting landscapes in major economies creating new challenges but also new opportunities. Those businesses with an instinct for growth will be best placed to spot these emerging pockets of opportunity, build new trade links, and make the most of a volatile 2016.”