Business Conditions Survey
NABE Business Conditions Survey Panel Reports Sales and
Price Increases Slowing at Their Firms, and Profit Margins Falling; Most Respondents Expect Economy to Avoid Recession in Next 12 Months
The October 2023 NABE Business Conditions Survey report presents the responses of 52 NABE members to a survey conducted October 9-17, 2023, on business conditions in their firms or industries, and reflects third-quarter 2023 results and the near-term outlook.
COMMENTS: “The October 2023 Business Conditions Survey results suggest a more challenging business environment as the economy slows,” said NABE President Ellen Zentner, chief U.S. economist, Morgan Stanley. “Sales are seen as growing, but at a slower pace, and profit margins are reported to be declining.”
“The panel suggests that inflation is continuing to ease, which is good news for consumers,” added NABE Business Conditions Survey Chair Carlos Herrera, chief economist, Coca-Cola North America. “One-third of respondents report prices charged by their firms rose in the third quarter of 2023, down from 49% in the July survey, while the share reporting falling prices edged upward to 6% from 4%. However, panelists report that this trend may be coming to an end, as the expectation for prices charged going forward inched higher, and increased cost pressures is reported as the second biggest risk to respondents’ businesses after higher interest rates.”
- More panelists report falling sales and fewer report rising sales in the past three months, than in the July survey. The Net Rising Index (NRI) for sales—the percentage of panelists reporting rising sales minus the percentage reporting falling sales—is 6, down from a reading of 33 in the July survey, and the lowest reading since the April 2020 survey conducted at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The forward-looking NRI fell to 25 from 38 in the July survey, indicating fewer respondents expect sales to rise in the next three months than previously.
- The NRI for profit margins fell to -20, down 20 points from the NRI in the July survey, and the second-lowest reading since the onset of the pandemic. A smaller share of panelists—10%—expects profit margins to rise in the next three months, down from 22% in the July survey; the share expecting profit margins to fall is unchanged at 16%.
- The NRI for prices charged fell from 45 in July to 27 in October, the lowest level since the January 2021 survey. More than half (61%) of panelists indicate that prices were unchanged at their firms in the last three months, up from 47% in the July survey. One-third (33%) of respondents reports rising prices at their firms, down from 49% in July. The forward-looking NRI is 36 compared to 35 in July, as the percent of respondents that expect rising prices and falling prices both declined by similar amounts. More than half, 60%, of panelists expect prices to remain unchanged in the next three months.
- Panelists’ views on the expectation that the U.S. economy will avoid a recession in the next 12 months continue to improve. Seventy-nine percent of respondents assign a probability of 50% or less to such an occurrence, up from 71% in the July survey, while 18% suggest a recession is more likely than not, down from 26% in the previous survey. The October survey asks about the 12 months from now; the July survey asked about the period beginning in July.
- If it occurs, a federal government shutdown in November is expected to have a minor negative impact for 65% of respondents. Another 10% expect a significant negative impact, while 25% expect no impact. No panelists expect a positive impact.
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