Britain's recovery looks fragile

Recent data suggests Britain's recovery may be weaker than hoped.


Britain's consumers are cheery

Britain may not see a rapid recovery from the weak growth seen in the first quarter. Recent economic data have been disappointing the manufacturing sector picked up more slowly than expected in May, and surveys of the services sector have also disappointed.

Meanwhile, annual house-price growth dropped to 4.6% last month, the first sub-5% reading since 2013, according to Nationwide. However, mortgage approvals rose by over 6,000 in April, said the Bank of England, the biggest monthly gain in over six years. Consumer confidence remains near 13-year highs.

What the commentators said

A rate rise this year seems unlikely, agreed Capital Economics. But while the recovery is clearly still "a bit fragile", a "sustained slowdown" is unlikely. The main driver should be consumption, which accounts for around 60% of GDP. The labour market is still strengthening, earnings growth should keep climbing, and inflation has disappeared for now, bolstering real incomes.

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

Real household spending is on track to grow by 3% in 2015, the most in ten years. So with sterling strength squeezing manufacturers, Britain is once again relying on household spending to keep the show on the road, said Alex Brummer in the Daily Mail.

Chancellor George Osborne's vision of a UK "carried aloft by the march of the makers" looks more and more like "a Budget 2011 hallucination", said Alistair Osborne in The Times. Back then, manufacturing comprised 12.8% of GDP; now it's 10%. That's not a march it's "a limp". And it's domestic demand for consumer goods that is propping the sector up.

Of course, we are an economy dominated by sevices. But perhaps Osborne will let us know in next month's Budget where the high-tech exporters, crucial to the rebalancing he's always banging on about, have gone.

Andrew Van Sickle

Andrew is the editor of MoneyWeek magazine. He grew up in Vienna and studied at the University of St Andrews, where he gained a first-class MA in geography & international relations.

After graduating he began to contribute to the foreign page of The Week and soon afterwards joined MoneyWeek at its inception in October 2000. He helped Merryn Somerset Webb establish it as Britain’s best-selling financial magazine, contributing to every section of the publication and specialising in macroeconomics and stockmarkets, before going part-time.

His freelance projects have included a 2009 relaunch of The Pharma Letter, where he covered corporate news and political developments in the German pharmaceuticals market for two years, and a multiyear stint as deputy editor of the Barclays account at Redwood, a marketing agency.

Andrew has been editing MoneyWeek since 2018, and continues to specialise in investment and news in German-speaking countries owing to his fluent command of the language.