Turning the tides?

12 June 2014

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The performance of the economy in Western Europe, it can be argued, has been something of a "mixed bag" in recent months. While certain countries falter, the UK and Germany are among those leading the way with this latest economic recovery.

Keeping the spotlight closer to home (UK) it would seem that there is a great degree of optimism in the domestic economy. According to the latest International Trade Monitor from Western Union, 82% of British SMEs engaged in international trade are confident about the UK economic climate. This is up from 77% in Q4 2013 and to the considerably lower fi gure of 54% a year ago.

"The UK is looking up astonishingly and we have noticed an enormous turnaround since Christmas. Enquiries are through the roof here. The types of orders we are getting from construction have mainly come from glass distributors and the precast concrete industries, but many other industries are performing strongly, driving the crane market," explains Andrew Pimblett, managing director of Street Crane Company.

Elsewhere, 62% believe that the general business environment in the UK will improve in 2014, an improvement of 13 percentage points over the previous quarter and 33 points higher than in Q1 2013.

However, when you focus on European exports, the overall level of activity remains subdued. The number of SMEs that have customers in all key markets except Europe remained fl at quarter on quarter while only 9% of SMEs have customers in China compared to 15% a year ago, whilst only 6% sell to India (vs. 14% in Q1 2013).

I'll leave the UK-centric focus there for now, but it is important to recognise the ever-changing performance of the countries that make up this part of Europe, not only for trade within these countries, but globally too.

And with the latest iteration of CeMAT 2014 taking place in Germany this very month, it's only fitting that we place the spotlight on Western Europe in our regular market report feature.

In his latest piece, Tom Hall argues that the last few years have certainly been turbulent for Western Europe. Riots in London, Spain and Sweden linger in recent memory as dissidents vent their collective frustration at the lengthy period of economic inactivity.

And as we reach mid-2014, most Western European countries are still picking up the pieces, but there has been some genuinely promising activity of late, cautiously reflected in the crane market.

Until next time, I hope CeMAT is a fruitful and productive event for all involved. With more than 1,100 diverse exhibitors on show, it genuinely looks as if the show can live up to its billing of "Smart - Integrated - Efficient".