Much has been made of the made of Chancellor George Osborne’s success with austerity and the UK’s eruption back into growth, confounding his critics. However, ‘austerity’ has been more of a publicity exercise. Government spending as percentage of GDP has fallen only slightly, but is still higher than it ever was before the financial crisis.
We have seen strong coincident activity in the UK in recent months, helped in part by a government-engineered boost to the housing market, which has lifted consumer spirits and caused retail sales to surge. Our leading indicator anticipated this upturn in the economy, and it continues to see no blots on the horizon (ie over the next 6 to 9 months), although this month it has leveled off slightly rather than continuing to climb.
UK inflation last week came back to the BoE’s target for the first time since 2009. This should most certainly be a boon for consumers whose average real incomes have been negative for several years. However, our UK Future Inflation…
Data in the UK have taken an unequivocally positive turn. PMIs for services, construction and manufacturing are at 3 year highs. Furthermore, the underlying picture is healthy, with the new orders to inventory ratio for manufacturing surging to 1.4. This has resulted in growth forecasts being upgraded, including the OECD, which now sees annualized growth in 2H13 of 3.5%, compared to the BoE’s last estimate of 2.8%.
Data in the UK has been broadly positive, with much fanfare over revised GDP data showing the UK avoided the dreaded ‘double dip’. This is a trivial distinction; the reality is the UK is still bumping along the bottom. Manufacturing…
The aggregate real global policy rate is still firmly negative due to the commitment to low interest rates in the major G4 economies, but we are seeing notable divergence between economies. The UK remains a textbook example of stagflation while real rates also differ markedly between emerging economies.
The UK Treasury’s decision to transfer coupon income from the Bank of England’s Asset Purchase Facility is a step towards ‘fiscal dominance’, where the fiscal authority ultimately gains the upper hand from the central bank and we see monetisation of public sector debts and deficits.
Some cheer was reported when UK industrial production rebounded a stronger than expected 2.9% MoM in July. Manufacturing output also rose a stronger than expected 3.2% MoM. The longer-term picture, however, remains bleak.
The strength of sterling has been in part due to some safe-haven flows from the Middle East (where sometimes GBP is seen as a preferable safe-haven to the USD or CHF), but this is not the fundamental driver.
Fiscal austerity in the developed world represents a paradox. On one hand, it is necessary as governments had already borrowed too much going into the crisis and can thus no longer continue to lever up to compensate for private deleveraging. On the other hand, the objective of fiscal austerity is to stabilise exploding government debt to GDP ratios, but this is proving difficult as depressing government spending leads to a higher decline in GDP relative to the reduction in the gross debt level.