Newly released figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that industry in the UK has fallen back into recession. It shrank for the second quarter in a row from 0.6 per cent in the last three months of 2015 to 0.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2016. The ONS say that together, manufacturing and construction are the major components causing the overall slowdown in economic growth. Manufacturing production fell by 1.9 per cent in the first quarter compared to a year ago and is the largest fall since 2013, while construction output fell by 1.9 per cent over the same period and by 1.1 per cent from quarter four of 2015.
The ONS has also reported that the trade gap has widened to £13.3 billion in the first quarter of 2016, the deficit having increased by £1.1 billion from £12.2 billion the last three months of 2015. This was due to imports of mechanical machinery, cars, clothing, jewellery and footwear rising by £1.9 billion, while exports rose by only £500 million, led by chemical products. Analysts say that UK exports have been hampered by only moderate global demand, while sterling has been strong, particularly against the euro.
At its most recent meeting, the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted to maintain interest rates at their historic low of 0.5 per cent. In the Committee’s assessment of the health of the UK economy, it opined that a vote to leave the European Union (EU) would pose a significant risk. The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has said that in the light of the Bank’s responsibility for the UK’s financial stability, it would be wrong for the Bank not to give its considered view.
Meanwhile, the Confederation of British Industry lobby group has cut its economic forecasts. It now says that the economy will grow by 2 per cent in 2016 and 2017, down from its previous forecast of 2.3 per cent and 2.1 per cent respectively. The cuts are a reaction to uncertainty over global growth and the outcome of the EU vote but the revised figures reflect an assumption that the UK will stay in the EU.
According to data from the website Rightmove, April saw an increase of 11.5 per cent in the number of rental properties being listed. This marked rise is believed to be due to the large number of landlords who scrambled to buy homes to let before the Stamp Duty deadline at the end of March. Research conducted by investment firm Property Partner, which looked at 90 towns and cities across the UK, showed that the supply of properties to let went up in 82 per cent of them, Worcester seeing a surge in rental properties of nearly 50 per cent.