UK financial system rebounds with stronger-than-expected January GDP print

Metropolis staff in Paternoster Sq., the place the headquarters of the London Inventory Change relies, within the Metropolis of London, UK, on Thursday, March 2, 2023.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Pictures

LONDON — The U.Ok. financial system grew by 0.3% in January, official figures confirmed on Friday, exceeding expectations because it continues to fend off what economists see as an inevitable recession.

Economists polled by Reuters had projected a 0.1% month-to-month enhance in GDP. GDP was flat over the three months to the tip of January, the Workplace for Nationwide Statistics mentioned.

“The providers sector grew by 0.5% in January 2023, after falling by 0.8% in December 2022, with the biggest contributions to development in January 2023 coming from schooling, transport and storage, human well being actions, and humanities, leisure and recreation actions, all of which have rebounded after falls in December 2022,” the ONS discovered.

Manufacturing output fell by 0.3% in January after rising 0.3% in December, whereas the development sector dropped 1.7% in January after flatlining the earlier month.

The U.Ok. financial system confirmed no development within the closing quarter of 2022 to narrowly keep away from a recession — generally outlined as two quarters of unfavorable development — however shrunk by 0.5% in December.

The U.Ok. stays the one nation within the G-7 (Group of Seven) main economies that has but to completely get better its misplaced output in the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. The ONS mentioned Friday that month-to-month GDP is now estimated to be 0.2% under its pre-pandemic ranges.

Each the Financial institution of England and the Workplace for Funds Accountability have forecast a five-quarter recession starting within the first quarter of 2023, however the knowledge has to this point exceeded expectations.

Regardless of the better-than-expected January print, economists nonetheless broadly consider exercise is on a downward trajectory, as excessive inflation eats into family incomes and enterprise exercise.

U.Ok. inflation slowed to an annual 10.1% in January, persevering with to shrink after hitting a 41-year excessive of 11.1% in October however staying nicely above the Financial institution of England’s 2% goal.

Suren Thiru, economics director on the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, mentioned that the “modest” January rebound suggests the financial system remains to be on a “downbeat path.”

“We’re prone to proceed flirting with recession all through a lot of 2023, as excessive inflation, tax rises and the lagged impact of rising rates of interest shrinks shopper spending energy, regardless of a lift from easing vitality prices,” Thiru mentioned.

Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt will ship the federal government’s finances on Wednesday and is predicted to announce additional measures to handle the nation’s value of residing disaster.

“The Spring Funds may have a major influence on the U.Ok.’s near-term development prospects. Whereas extending vitality help will present some aid to struggling households, aggressive tax rises would danger eliminating any lingering momentum from the financial system,” Thiru mentioned.

Tom Hopkins, portfolio supervisor at BRI Wealth Administration, famous that month-to-month figures are troublesome to learn for the time being, given distortions during the last six months — such because the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II and the World Cup — which partially affected shopper providers.

“The underlying pattern within the financial system seems to be one in every of gradual contraction, thanks partly to an ongoing downtrend in retail spending,” he mentioned. “We’re anticipating a technical recession within the UK within the first half of this 12 months, albeit one which’s not as unhealthy as first feared.”

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