From: Langmead & Baker Ltd for Stanbic Bank Zambia
Published: Mon Nov 16 2020

The Zambian private sector neared stabilisation during October as business conditions across the economy showed signs of improvement following the worst of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic earlier in the year.

New orders fell only slightly, while the decline in output was the weakest for 20 months. Similarly, softer reductions were seen in employment and purchasing activity at the start of the final quarter of the year, according to the latest Stanbic Bank Zambia IHS Markit Purchasing Managers' Index.

The headline PMI improved to 48.9 in October, up from 46.6 in September and the highest in the current 20-month sequence of sub-50 readings. That said, the index still signalled a modest deterioration in private sector operating conditions.

Slower reductions in both backlogs of work and employment were recorded during October, consistent with the trends in output and new orders, said Sean Onyambu, economist at award-winning Stanbic Bank Zambia.

Mr Onyambu explained that pressure on wages reportedly came from efforts to incentivise workers and signs of improving demand, and that staff costs were broadly unchanged, following seven successive monthly reductions in employee expenses.

Readings above 50.0 signal an improvement in business conditions on the previous month, while readings below 50.0 show a deterioration.

He further said that the pace of decline in new orders continued to slow sharply during October as some firms were able to secure greater new business volumes.

The overall fall was only marginal and the slowest since prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, although respondents indicated that demand remained fragile.

With new orders showing signs of recovery, companies reduced their business activity to the least extent in the current 20-month sequence of contraction. Where output continued to fall, respondents linked this to the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of money in circulation, he continued.

Mr Onyambu however said that purchase cost inflation was the steepest since February, with panellists mainly linking higher prices to weakness of the Zambian kwacha against the US dollar.

The increase in purchase costs fed through to higher selling prices.

He added that business confidence ticked higher but remained well below the series average amid ongoing uncertainty.

Charges rose at a marked pace, albeit one that was slightly weaker than that seen in September.

Companies remained reluctant to hold inventories and therefore lowered purchasing and stocks of inputs. That said, the respective rates of decline softened, he said.


About Stanbic Bank Zambia

Stanbic Bank Zambia is part of the Standard Bank Group, Africa's largest bank by assets.

Standard Bank Group reported total assets R2.3 trillion (about USD163 billion) at 31 December 2019, while its market capitalisation was R277 billion (USD20 billion).

The group has direct, on-the-ground representation in 20 African countries and in 5 global financial centres. Standard Bank Group has more than 1 100 branches and 9 000 ATMs in Africa, making it one of the largest banking networks on the continent. It provides global connections backed by deep insights into the countries where it operates.

Stanbic Bank Zambia is the largest bank in Zambia by balance sheet and provides the full spectrum of financial services. Its Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB) division serves a wide range of requirements for banking, finance, trading, investment, risk management and advisory services. Corporate and Investment Banking delivers this comprehensive range of products and services relating to: investment banking; global markets; and global transactional products and services.

Standard Bank's corporate and investment banking expertise is focused on industry sectors that are most relevant to emerging markets. It has strong offerings in mining and metals; oil, gas and renewables; power and infrastructure; agribusiness; telecommunications and media; and financial institutions.

Stanbic Bank Zambia's Personal and Business Banking unit (PBB) offers banking and other financial services to individuals and small-to-medium enterprises. PBB serves the increasing need among Africa's small business and individual customers for banking products that can meet their shifting expectations and growing wealth.

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