Russia: Economic outlook mixed, political outlook stable

5 min

Early indicators for 2018 were mixed. The Composite Output index rose to 55.2 points in February, after it had fallen to 54.8 in January, driven by a rebound in the Services PMI to 56.5 (from 55.1). The latter was propelled by rising demand, reflected in a strong increase in new orders and the quickest rate of job creation since end-2012. This bodes well for consumer spending in early 2018, even though real retail sales growth eased to +2.8% y/y in January from an average +3% y/y in Q4 2017. Meanwhile, the Manufacturing PMI fell to a 19-month low of 50.2 points in February (52.1 in January), with across-the-board weaker expansion in output, new orders and prices and a fall in employment. This suggests that the rebound in industrial production growth to +2.9% y/y in January from an average -1.7% y/y in Q4 2017 may be short-lived. On Sunday, Russia will hold presidential elections. Vladimir Putin, the incumbent, is widely expected to be re-elected for a fourth term. Hence do not expect major changes to economic and foreign policy in the medium term.