For the second month in a row, the current and future conditions index values matched up exactly, as both edged down from 76.5 in March to April's reading of 73.5. Although the topline values were identical, the underlying response patterns diverged. In the current conditions measure, 53 percent of the respondents reported better conditions this month, down from 59 percent in March. On the flip side, the share of panel members noting unchanged conditions increased by 6 percentage points to 41 percent in April, while those seeing worse conditions held steady at 6 percent.
The survey's measure of the intensity of change in electroindustry business conditions showed improvement, and a wider range of responses, from last month, as the mean score moved up by one-tenth of a point to +0.8 in April while the median value remained at +1. In March, reported intensity values ranged from -1 to +2, but widened to include a minimum value of -2 and a top end of +3 this month. Panelists are asked to report intensity of change on a scale ranging from –5 (deteriorated significantly) through 0 (unchanged) to +5 (improved significantly).
As federal policy makers appear to be settling into something of a new normal, the current conditions reporting seems driven less by inside the Beltway goings on and more by on-the-ground business activity. However, the view six months ahead is still clouded by concerns about the shape of infrastructure plans and healthcare and tax reform proposals. A smaller share of our panel – 18 percent now versus 35 percent in March – expects conditions to be unchanged in six months. Sixty-five percent of our respondents expect better conditions, up from 59 percent in March, but the proportion of those expecting worse conditions tripled from 6 percent last month to 18 percent in April.
Click here for the complete April 2017 report.