Business World

Thursday 23 November 2017

UK economy grows slightly slower than expected in first quarter

Britain's economy grew slightly slower than expected in the first three months of 2014 but the year-on-year rate was its fastest in more than six years, official data showed today.

The economy remains smaller than its peak level before the 2008-09 recession, underscoring why the Bank of England has said it will not be raising interest rates quickly.

Gross domestic product rose 0.8 percent in the first quarter, picking up a bit of speed from growth of 0.7 percent in the last three months of 2013, the Office for National Statistics said.

Compared with the first quarter of 2013, output was 3.1 percent higher, the ONS said, the biggest rise since the last quarter of 2007.

Economists taking part in a Reuters poll had forecast quarter-on-quarter growth of 0.9 percent and 3.2 percent in yearly terms.

The acceleration will help Prime Minister David Cameron as he tries to convince voters that his Conservative Party should be returned to power in next year's elections to carry on restoring Britain to financial health.

The ONS said Britain's economy was 0.6 percent smaller than at its peak in the first quarter of 2008 after the recession wiped 7.2 percent off total output, the ONS said.

But excluding the oil and gas sector, which is in decline, output was 0.3 percent higher than in early 2008.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney was quoted as saying on Tuesday that the economic recovery is starting to broaden and there are early signs that it will be sustainable.

Although Britain is expected to grow more strongly than any of the other Group of Seven economies this year, most rich countries have already recovered their pre-recession size.

Britain's population has also risen strongly since the financial crisis, meaning that output per head is still well below pre-crisis levels, and driving a decline in real wages that is only just starting to level out.

Floods in many areas of Britain in February appeared to have had little effect on overall growth although construction was hit by bad weather in January and February, the ONS said.

Output in the service sector - which makes up more than three quarters of GDP - rose by 0.9 percent in the first quarter after growing by 0.8 percent in the last quarter of 2013.

That was the sector's fastest growth since the third quarter of 2012.

Industrial output was 0.8 percent higher - its strongest growth since the second quarter of 2010. Construction, which accounts for about 6 percent of GDP, grew by 0.3 percent.

Despite the strong growth, the Bank has signalled that it is in no rush to raise interest rates and its stance has been helped by the lowest consumer inflation rate in more than four years.

The Bank has welcomed a previously announced pickup in business investment as a sign that the economic recovery might be able to reduce its reliance on unsustainable consumer spending.

The ONS's preliminary estimates of GDP do not include a breakdown of spending. They are the first released in the European Union, and are based mostly on estimated data.

A separate survey published on Tuesday showed British households are feeling increasingly upbeat about their finances.

Consumer confidence in April hit its highest level since August 2007, helped in particular by rising house prices as well as by higher earnings, according to the survey by polling firm YouGov and the Centre for Economics and Business Research, a consultancy.

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