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Economic Sustainability - Global Economics Weekly

Economic Sustainability

Global Economics Weekly Brief



There is no doubt that the UK economy is expanding at a decent lick, but! What’s more, the recovery is better balanced than it has been and the UK have growth without much inflation.



But niggles remain about its sustainability. Households are running down their savings to fund consumption and the UK spent more than it earned last year. Plus, the UK debt is £1.4 trillion!! see below details.

Seeking sustainability. The Office for National Statistics confirmed that the UK grew by 0.7% in the final quarter of 2013 and by 1.7% over the year as a whole. Net trade and investment both expanded, along with consumption. However, the household saving ratio fell to 5.0% compared with 6.1% a year earlier and the current account deficit – the gap between what the UK earns and spends – reached 4.4% of national income in 2013. The UK have big problems! Massive government debt and rapidly climbing with domestic debt at the highest ever recorded, the UK have very serious problems!

Open all hours. Wallets and internet browsers were open in February as UK consumers continued to give the recovery momentum. Retail sales (ex. fuel) rose 1.8%m/m, reversing January's post-Christmas fall. Supermarkets and food stores saw a 2.1%m/m jump in sales, but despite the housing market revival, sales of household goods fell. The amount the UK spent online was up 12.4%y/y, with 22p of every £1 spent "in" department stores coming from the internet. Maybe there is something about being open all hours. Retail shops are in rapid decline for sales and visitors to buy, so why build more shops?

House! Mortgage lending in February was an eye-watering 43% higher than year earlier. According to the Council of Mortgage Lenders, the government’s Help to Buy scheme is lowering the share of the purchase price that buyers have to put down as a deposit. Loan to value (LTV) ratios are creeping up as is the number of higher LTV products on the market. Whereas first time buyers had been leading the way, house movers have now joined the party, too. House prices are rising rapidly to another boom and bust position, will people never learn!!

Monitoring the temperature. The Bank of England's Financial Policy Committee (FPC) is keeping a close watch on housing. The FPC can take steps to cool the market if it fears risks to financial stability. At its recent meeting, the FPC noted that while a number of housing market indicators remain below long-run averages, it is vigilant to emerging vulnerabilities and said it will take further proportionate and graduated action if warranted. When will they ever learn, act now or there will be another `boom and bust` housing issue situation again!!

Inflation: nothing to see here. Prices rose by 1.7%y/y in February, down from 1.9% in January and comfortably below the 2% target. Petrol and diesel were the biggest contributors to the fall, which left inflation fractionally ahead of wage rises. The news will cheer the Monetary Policy Committee. It thinks that unemployment can fall further before price pressures start to build. There was good news for business, too, with the rising value of sterling helping producers’ input costs fall by 5.7%y/y. There is not 100% full time employment in the UK, see information below!

Austerity and growth. The US economy grew by an annualised 2.6% in the final quarter of last year, down from 4.1% in Q3. Consumers, exports and business investment all expanded. But government was a drag on performance. October’s shutdown contributed to a 13.8% fall in federal government output. Austerity has cut public sector output by almost 8% since its 2009 peak. Over the same period total GDP has risen by nearly 11%. Watch out for more unemployment and rising costs!

US confidence rebounds. US consumer confidence bounced back strongly in March to its highest level in six years. However, housing hasn’t yet shaken off the winter blues. New home sales fell 3.3%m/m in February, partly due to higher interest rates. According to Freddie Mac, a mortgage provider, rates on 30-year loans are up 0.75%y/y. That’s not yet fully fed through to house prices. Case Shiller reported y/y price growth of 13.2% in January, although the rate of inflation is moderating, with a third m/m fall in a row, if only of 0.1%. Watch out for the change in the later part of 2014!

Signs of recovery. The euro zone Purchasing Managers’ Index came in at 53.2 in March, marginally below February’s 32-month high. Manufacturing and services expanded again as new orders growth accelerated. Hiring ticked-up as confidence over future demand strengthened. France returned to growth for the first time since last October. Germany and peripheral countries continued to expand, suggesting an acceleration of GDP growth in Q1. Taken altogether it is a reassuring picture. But further moderation in price growth suggests that deflationary pressures remain a concern!

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) UK latest reports show us that there are now 30.1m people in the working population in the UK. If you look closely at their figures you’ll see that (do we believe these figures?):- The Self Drive Worker Sector has grown at a faster pace than the Full Time Employment Sector. Against last week’s triumphalism rhetoric from Government about employment levels going up and unemployment going down, an equally as truthful – but equally as important - interpretation of the ONS figures announced in late January 2014 says something strikingly different.

If you separate out purely full time employees on a payroll from everyone else – who we call “Self Drive Workers” – and compare them with the same ONS figures at 31.3.13, what has happened is that the percentage of the total UK working population represented by purely full time workers on a payroll has actually `gone down` from 53.7% to 53.3% and the percentage of the total UK working population represented by “Self Drive Workers” has actually gone up from 46.5% to 46.7%. There are more jobs that are increasing but they are `part-time` and zero rated contracts!

(Self Drive Workers are those who need, either wholly or in part, to find their own work, their own “clients” – their own things to do – with their infinitely variable and often uncertain levels of reward. This part of the UK labour market – about half and, we submit, rising - is not recognised, not understood and certainly not supported. It has immense implications for the future economic prospects, even viability, of the UK and also for those `senior` business people opting for this working lifestyle.) For those who would like to examine the ONS figures supporting my view (available on the ONS website – EMP01) and read more about it click here - http://tinyurl.com/qg482c8

National Debt Up as UK Sinks deeper in to the Red! The UK government borrowed nearly £14 million `every hour` last month plunging Britain ever deeper into the red. The UK national debt hit £1.25 trillion or 74% of national income and around £50,000 for every household in the country. The national debt is rapidly increasing month-on-month, when will it stop?


Colin Thompson
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email: colin@cavendish-mr.org.uk

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http://www.colinthompson.org.uk

Economic Sustainability


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