Over 200 companies in Europe responded to the online survey at the end of September/beginning of October, and the results reveal that the balance of respondents who feel the market is deteriorating fell from last quarter's negative -40% balance (the difference between the proportion seeing an improvement and those seeing deterioration) to a less severe -15%.
That means a small majority still see conditions worsening, but a far smaller proportion than three months ago.
The survey is jointly operated by International Rental News (IRN) magazine and the European Rental Association (ERA). The full results will be published in the November-December issue of IRN, and will also be available on the ERA website (www.erarental.org).
Deteriorations in time utilization also appear to be stabilising, with a negative balance of opinion of -26% compared to more than -50% three months ago. It is also clear that rental companies have not much changed their views on fleet investment, with the balance between those who will spend more or less next year at -6%, a slight improvement on the last quarter.
One survey respondent told us; "I sincerely hope that we are rumbling at the bottom of the downturn now, but I think the recovery will be quite slow in the next 12 months and then add on more speed."
For the first time, we have included a measure of how companies view prospects for their businesses one year from now. This shows a positive balance of +26% (43% expect conditions to be better, 16% worse).
To provide a ‘total view' of the survey we have created a RentalTracker Barometer - see illustration. This combines views on current market conditions; the market now compared to the same quarter last year; and sentiment on how the market will be in a year's time.
For the third quarter the barometer is in the ‘upturn' segment, although the modest nature of the upturn is reflected in the short length of the arrow (the stronger the trend, the longer the arrow.)
Among the larger market areas (France, Italy, Germany, France, Spain and Nordic countries) there is strong agreement on current business conditions, with a typical negative balance of around -20%. The one exception to this is France, where the balance was zero (an equal number seeing improving and deteriorating conditions).
In addition to the ERA/IRN RentalTracker for Europe, IRN has separately surveyed rental companies in the rest of the world for the magazine's annual Rental Confidence Survey, which will also be published in the November-December issue.
Here, sentiment is generally better than in Europe. There is a positive +2% balance on current business conditions (33% say improving, 31% says deteriorating), and also a positive +35% balance on prospects one year from now. This more positive feeling is reflected in a higher likelihood of increasing investment in 2010, with a positive balance of +10% (compared to -6% in Europe).
Geographically, companies in the US and Canada were similar in their views to European's with a negative -17.2% balance on current business conditions and negative -1.5% balance on capital investment increases next year. The Middle East was the most optimistic market, with a positive +22% balance on current business conditions and +26% on 2010 spending increases.