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Thursday, 25 February 2010

Worse business investment puts Q4 GDP revision in doubt...

Tomorrow's second reading of the Q4 GDP figure has been widely expected to show that the UK emerged from recession at a quicker pace than the 0.1% originally shown in the preliminary reading.

Although analysts weren't expected a dramatic change in the number, a reading of around 0.2% or 0.3% would have given them more comfort for the outlook of the recovery.

However, the likelihood of tomorrow's second reading showing an upwards revision was put in doubt today by news from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showing business investment falling sharply in the final quarter of the year. According to the Preliminary reading of business investment in Q4 2009, investment fell 5.8%, compared to a fall of 1.8% in Q3 2009.

Again a health warning must be placed on these figures as they are only preliminary readings and therefore are highly likely to be changed.

For more information: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/bi0210.pdf

There remains a good possibility that GDP will be revised up tomorrow. Nevertheless these figures suggest that business was not yet confident enough to spend money in the final months of 2009 and were hoarding their cash in anticipation of things continuing to be bumpy in 2010.

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Friday, 24 July 2009

UK Q2 GDP results fall short of expectations

Preliminary GDP data for the UK came in well below analyst expectations today, falling by 0.8% in the second quarter of 2009. Analysts had expected a fall smaller decline of just 0.3%.

It should be remembered that these preliminary estimates do have a habit of being substantially revised before they are finalised, however the magnitude of this fall should be enough to temper some of the more extreme claims that the recession ended some time back in May.

Don't get me wrong, there are signs that the recession is starting to moderate. The 0.8% GDP decline is nothing compared to the 2.4% seen in the first quarter of the year and recent indicators have pointed to continued improvement. However, pulling out of this recession is going to be a long process, and unfortunately a rather painful one. For one unemployment is up by more than 700,000 since the start of 2008 and will continue to rise, even when the economy starts to grow again.

These GDP figures are also lower than the last budget predicted and will mean that the government is highly unlikely to meet its fiscal forecasts. As a result taxes are highly likely to rise and the public sector is likely to experience cuts in funding. This will inevitably mean that jobs will be lost in the public sector, further forcing up employment and destroying one of the last bastions of secure employment.

A probable turn in the inventory cycle as manufacturing businesses, having run down their stocks, restart production and recent economic indicators suggest that the UK economy may return to positive economic growth as early as the third or fourth quarter of 2009. This is indeed possible. However, the road to recovery will not be smooth. The unwinding of fiscal imbalances, a return to a normal interest rate environment and the withdrawal of quantitative easing will be difficult, threatening recovery.

Whatever shape you think the recovery will take one thing is for sure, it will not be easy!

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Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Sub-prime woes to hurt more than just the City Boys

To those who haven’t been around for the past couple of weeks the stock markets have been going through absolute turmoil. The fall out from the sub-prime lending market in the United States has had ramifications not only in the United States but across the global financial system. How long this crisis will last is yet to be seen and the wider outcome is yet to be known. However don’t be fooled into thinking this is not going to have an impact upon those outside the financial markets, it will.

To those who don’t know the current market turmoil has been created by a problem in the United States sub-prime mortgage market. The sub-prime mortgage market is where banks lend to people with a poor credit rating at a higher interest rate – in the hope of higher returns. However, the market became too loose and too overstretched. As base interest rates rose in the United States and the economy slowed, borrowers saw mortgage payments rise at a point when jobs were being cut and wage growth slowing. As a result defaults on mortgages increased rapidly.

So why didn’t the problem stop with the mortgage lenders? The problem has had wider consequences because those banks that lent in the sub-prime market packaged up some of this debt as a financial product and sold it to willing buyers in the international financial market. This was done as an insurance measure against widespread defaults. However, the selling of sub-prime mortgages went too far and rather than acting as an insurance against the risk, international financial markets have been pulled into the crisis.

The result is that financial markets have seen billions of dollars wiped off them in August. Several hedge funds have been closed and many of the major banks have suffered huge losses. This crisis has also led to a steep drop in confidence. Banks are no-longer willing to take the risk and lend to one another. As a result this has created a credit crunch where investors have not been able to borrow credit and as a result of a falling credit supply the cost of borrowing has risen rapidly. The Fed, the European Central Bank and other major banks have reacted strongly by cutting interest rates and by pumping credit into the markets. This has helped to temporarily stabilise markets but volatility remains high and no-one is yet saying things are in the clear.

Looking forward to the rest of the year and into 2008 it seems likely that the impact of the sub-prime market will run on and on in a number of different forms. Businesses are likely to find it increasingly difficult to find credit, especially the cheap credit they’ve been used to in recent years. This will reduce the ability of businesses to expand and capitalise on opportunities as and when they arise. Consequently business activity will be reduced, which will hit GDP growth.

The reduction in business activity will also hit employees. The first people hit are likely to be the City Boys who are not going to see the same bonus payments they have become used to. It has already been estimated that city bonuses may be reduced by up to 20 per cent in 2007. Jobs in financial services are also likely to suffer, with slowing headcount additions and even with a net loss of jobs.

However, with slowing business activity and reduced consumer demand from those working in financial services, the impact will be felt by every sector of the economy. There are few that will not be affected by the current financial crisis; jobs will be lost in all sectors. Those businesses which are not able to grow will not be able to increase the amount they spend on suppliers.

Those thinking that the sub-prime mortgage crisis is something that only those working in finance need worry about should think twice. Get ready for higher unemployment, slower wage growth and ultimately a difficult couple of years.

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