Standard Chartered has issued the first of a series of quarterly surveys, based on the views of 529 C-Suite executives from 7 Asian economies and 12 industry groups, 99% of whom are clients of Standard Chartered and business contacts of the equity research team.
According to the bank, the survey differentiates itself by structuring questions that draw out important links between economic variables such as corporate order books, costs and margins, as opposed to focusing on single-issue variables. Responses help build a more comprehensive picture of the outlook for industry sectors and economies.
Analysis of the responses to the survey highlights a number of nuanced conclusions, says Clive McDonnell, chief equity strategies at Standard Chartered, with specific implications for investors. These include, the observation that buoyant new orders are centered on economies that are more domestically oriented, including Indonesia, India and Thailand. Capex and hiring plans are also biased towards these economies, whereas cyclical economies (with the exception of Korea) and sectors are less positive.
Equally, the RMB is gaining traction as a settlement currency, with 37% of the respondents using or intending to use it. Moreover, the biggest challenges faced by corporates are: the demand outlook (selected by 28% of respondents), cost pressures (25%) and regulation (19%).
The energy sector is also expected to benefit from a wave of new capital in 2012, with 44% of respondents indicating their plan to tap into the debt market for raising new capital.
Key challenges facing corporates in 2012 have also been identified in the survey. 28% of respondents see demand as their greatest challenge, closely followed by cost pressures, at 25%. Regulatory uncertainty took the third spot, with 19% of respondents indicating it as their biggest challenge.
“A likely recession in the West in 2012, as judged by our respondents, has failed to dampen bottom-up corporate sentiment in Asia. Our Aggregate Index signals a slight improvement in the lead indicators for business prospects in the year ahead, despite challenges of demand, cost pressures and regulatory obligations,” says McDonnell. He adds:
“Investment implications from the survey support our recommendation for continued emphasis on companies that focus on domestic demand, particularly in Indonesia. We also expect margin pressure to ease in 2012, reflecting improvement in inflation expectations.”