Britain's economic bright spot amid global gloom

While the International Monetary Fund points to a bad year for global growth, Britain's economy picks up speed.


Britain is going shopping

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) thinks that this year we are in for the slowest global growth since the crisis. The second of its biannual forecasts has pencilled in a 3.1% increase in world GDP for 2015, down from a 3.3% estimate in July. The main culprit is the downturn in emerging markets, whose growth will slide for the fifth year in a row amid China's slowdown and reduced demand for commodities. Britain is a bright spot, however. The IMF expects "continued steady growth" here, with output growing by 2.5%, up slightly from the July forecast.

What the commentators said

For now, however, the backdrop is certainly deteriorating, said Warner. China may be heading for a hard landing; "the eurozone is still a hopeless wreck", and America appears to be coming off the boil, postponing the first interest-rate hike in nearly a decade. Global headwinds could knock Chancellor George Osborne's growth and fiscal projections off course again. We can't permanently shrug off the poor external environment, "unsustainably pumping up demand with monetary stimulus" to make up for "the lack of it elsewhere".

Yet the UK isn't merely relying on cheap money, said Capital Economics. There is plenty of organic momentum. Consumers' real incomes are rising strongly, with inflation at zero and wage growth at almost 3% on an annual basis the fastest rise in six years. Consumer confidence is at levels consistent with annual growth in retail sales volumes of around 6%. Household spending comprises around 60% of GDP.

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Business confidence is healthy and productivity at long last seems to have started to recover. Industrial production was strong last month. The pace of growth may ease in the third quarter, but "we are still feeling pretty good about the outlook". There are certainly "no obvious reasons why the economy should be seeing a sustained slowdown".

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.