Small Businesses and self-employed account for a large portion of the private sector. Small and medium scale businesses’ success and failure impact a large section of the country’s population. Critical economic indicators like employment rate, consumer spending, GDP are all directly affected by the performance of small scale businesses. By paying attention to small business sentiment indices, the severity of economic conditions can be assessed more accurately, helping us to form more informed investment decisions.
What is Small Business Sentiment?
The definitions of a small business differ across corporations, regions, and countries. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) defines a small business as an independent and privately owned, managed by an individual or a small group of people, and have less than 20 employees. A business having 20-199 employees is termed a medium scale business.
Small Businesses are generally diverse, but broadly they can be segregated into a few broad categories, though. One of those sectors includes providing services to other businesses and households that can include professionals like plumbers, home doctors, electricians, etc. Another sector includes retail outlets like grocery, bars, saloons, etc. Finally, another sector that these businesses can be categorized into is the niche service and goods providers in the manufacturing, construction, and agricultural sectors.
Given the diversity, a large number of activities are taken up by these businesses. In many areas where large businesses cannot reach out due to lack of business viability, these small ones plug the gap. For instance, a remote area having a population of about 50-100 people would not be suitable for a supermarket; instead, a small private grocery shop would do the trick.
Small Business Sentiment indices try to measure the general sentiment towards the business outlook in the current and coming months. Since the sentiment is abstract, the numbers are not precisely quantifiable and differ from person to person. Still, the sentiment indices are calculated as an average of a selected sample of small businesses every month or quarter. Higher and more positive numbers indicate a positive outlook towards business prospects and indicate the economy is likely to grow and prosper. On the other hand, low and negative numbers indicate a weak business prospect, and the economy is likely to slow down.
How can the Small Business Sentiment numbers be used for analysis?
In the case of Australia, that has over two million businesses that come under the category of small businesses, which is over 95% of the entire business sector. The large and established business sectors contribute to the remaining 5%. Since the failure rate of small businesses is quite high in any economy compared to the business giants, focusing on it gives us more accurate and economy sensitive data.
While big corporations generally have their profits nearly constant with mild swings during all business cycles, the small businesses are more sensitive, and their P/L (Profit/Loss) swings quite wildly over business cycles. Small businesses are more vulnerable and take a bigger hit from economic shocks resulting in closures or filing bankruptcy. In contrast, larger businesses are more resilient and can weather economic storms.
The small businesses contribute to a large share of employment; in Australia, it accounted for 43% of total employment. Small businesses are also generally the source of innovations where the smaller size of the organization gives room for the more creative expression of employees. For instance, in the video gaming industry, some of the most innovative gameplay mechanics have come from indie studios (small remote studios) that have had humble beginnings.
Overall the small-business sentiment gives more economy-sensitive data, where the direct impact and severity of economic conditions can be easily measured. The footprint of large businesses in terms of global or nationwide presence masks the underlying weaker economic growth in particular areas. For instance, an international giant like Sony may have had poor sales in the music industry, which are not reflected in its final sales figures if they had a good sale in the electronics department.
The high failure rate of small businesses can broadly impact the employment rate, consumer spending. The large scale failure of small businesses can be in general attributed to weak economic conditions, less consumer demand, high dollar value, lack of additional or tolerant policy from the Government to support small and medium businesses.
Impact on Currency
As the currency markets deal with macroeconomic indicators, small business sentiment indicators are overlooked for the broader and more inclusive business sentiment indicators like AIG MI (Australia Industry Group Manufacturing Index). The small business sentiment is useful for a more in-depth analysis of small regional companies and is useful for equity traders focusing on small company stocks. It is also useful for the Government officials to understand and draw out any support policies to maintain employment rate, and avoid bankruptcy to small-scale businesses.
It is also worth noting that not all countries maintain sentiment indices for small businesses, which makes analysis and comparison difficult for currency traders. Currency traders generally look for economic conditions across multiple countries to decide on investing in a currency; in that case, small business indices are not useful. Overall, it is a low-impact leading economic indicator that the currency markets generally overlook due to other alternative macroeconomic leading indicators.
In Australia, the National Australian Bank publishes monthly and quarterly reports on the performance of small-business and their prospects on its official website. A detailed report on how different sectors are faring during current economic conditions and probable business directions are all listed out in the reports.
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Optimism Index is famous in the United States for reporting monthly small business sentiment on its official website.
Sources of Small Business Sentiment Indices
We can find the Small Business Sentiment indices for Australia on NAB. We can find consolidated reports of Small Business Sentiment for available countries on Trading Economics along with NFIB statistics.
How Small Business Sentiment Data Release Affects The Price Charts?
As mentioned earlier, the National Australian Bank (NAB) is the primary source of business sentiment in Australia. The bank publishes monthly, and quarterly NAB Business Sentiment reports. The most recent report was released on August 11, 2020, at 1.30 AM GMT and can be accessed at Investing.com here. A more in-depth review of the monthly business survey in Australia can be accessed at the National Australian Bank website.
The screengrab below is of the NAB Business Confidence from Investing.com. On the right, is a legend that indicates the level of impact the Fundamental Indicator has on the AUD.
As can be seen, low impact is expected on the AUD upon the release of the NAB Business Confidence report. The screengrab below shows the most recent changes in business confidence in Australia. In July 2020, the index improved from -8 to 0, showing that business sentiment in Australia improved during the survey period. Therefore, it is expected that the AUD will be stronger compared to other currencies.
Now, let’s see how this release made an impact on the Forex price charts.
AUD/USD: Before NAB BC Release on August 11, 2020, Just Before 1.30 AM GMT
As can be seen on the above 15-minute chart, the AUD/USD pair was trading on a neutral pattern before the NAB Business Confidence report release. This trend is evidenced by candles forming on a flattening 20-period Moving Average, indicating that traders were waiting for the news release.
AUD/USD: After NAB BC Release on August 11, 2020, 1.30 AM GMT
After the news release, the pair formed a 15-minute bullish candle. As expected, the AUD adopted a bullish stance and continued trading in steady uptrend afterward with a sharply rising 20-period Moving Average.
Now let’s see how this news release impacted other major currency pairs.
AUD/JPY: Before NAB BC Release on August 11, 2020, Just Before 1.30 AM GMT
Before the news release, the AUD/JPY pair was shifting its trading trend from neutral to an uptrend. Bullish candles are forming above the 20-period Moving Average.
AUD/JPY: After NAB BC Release on August 11, 2020, 1.30 AM GMT
Similar to the AUD/USD pair, the AUD/JPY pair formed a bullish 15-minute candle after the news release. The pair later continued trading in a steady uptrend.
AUD/CAD: Before NAB BC Release on August 11, 2020, Just Before 1.30 AM GMT
AUD/CAD: After NAB BC Release on August 11, 2020, 1.30 AM GMT
The AUD/CAD pair was trading in a similar neutral pattern as the AUD/USD pair before the news release. This trend is shown by candles forming on and around a flat 20-period Moving Average. After the news release, the pair formed a bullish 15-minute candle and adopted a bullish uptrend, as observed in the previous pairs.
Theoretically, the small business sentiment is a low-impact indicator. However, in the age of Coronavirus afflicted economies, it has become a useful leading indicator of economic health and potential recovery. This phenomenon is what propelled the NAB Business Confidence indicator to have the observed significant impact on the AUD.