Monday, February 28, 2011

Perhaps the UK economy is really slowing down again

The Q4 GDP number looked like a weather-generated aberration. My view, for what it is worth, was that the UK economy would recover quickly this quarter. While I thought growth would continue to be anemic, I also believed that the UK GDP numbers would crawl into positive territory.

However, a couple of recent stories have recently made me reconsider this optimism.

First up; Primark....
Primark, the discount fashion retailer, warned of a "noticeable slowing down in UK consumer demand" in a further indication that Britons are tightening their belts.

Then, there is UK property lending....
State-backed lenders Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group, the two largest European commercial property lenders, cut loans by a combined £14.5bn, stated Bloomberg. HSBC and Barclays reported a drop of £2.7bn pounds. The four banks lent £199bn between them, according to financial statements published this month.

Then there is the q4 growth downgrade. The UK economy actually shrank by 0.6 percent rather than 0.5 percent, as was previously announced.
Gross domestic product (GDP) fell 0.6pc quarter-on-quarter, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, a bigger drop than its initial 0.5pc estimate that had shocked markets.

After an unprecendeted fiscal expansion, near-zero interest rates and a £200 million helicopter drop of cash, the UK economy is again slowing. Only this time, it is slowing with a rapidly rising inflation rate. The post-crisis expansionary policy stance was always folly. It was unnecessary. It was never going to provide any support of economic growth.

Why? Loose monetary conditions always leads to higher inflation. Loose fiscal policy destabilizes expectations. The private sector, when it sees large deficits and rising government debt, expect higher future taxation. Therefore, they cut back on current consumption depressing growth.

Sadly, recent economic data seems to be bearing out sorry but entirely predictable scenario.

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