Tuesday 20 March 2018

UK economy grows by 0.4% in the third quarter of 2017

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 0.4% for the third quarter.

By Ben Woods, Press Association Chief City Correspondent

The UK economy unexpectedly accelerated in the third quarter, upping the pressure on the Bank of England to hike interest rates next month.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 0.4% in its initial estimate for July to September this year.

The rise is above expectations of 0.3%, as economists predicted growth in line with the first and second quarters of 2017.

UK Economic growth (GDP) latest figures from the ONS. (PA Graphics)

The lion’s share of the expansion came from the services and manufacturing industries, while the construction sector fell into recession.

However, the UK economy is still struggling to bounce back to levels seen in the final quarter of 2016 when GDP rose by 0.6%.

It comes as the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) mulls whether to raise interest rates from record lows of 0.25% in November, as inflation continues to soar.

Howard Archer, EY ITEM Club’s chief economic adviser, said: “Improved third-quarter GDP growth of 0.4% quarter-on-quarter increases the chances that the Bank of England will raise interest rates from 0.25% to 0.5% on November 2 after the MPC meeting.”

Higher than expected third-quarter growth is a boost for Chancellor Philip Hammond as he gears up to deliver his Budget next month.

He recently warned that Brexit had left the UK economy under a “cloud of uncertainty”, while the International Monetary Fund also raised the growth outlook for every advanced economy aside from Britain because of its EU divorce.

Responding to the GDP announcement, the Chancellor said: “We have a successful and resilient economy which is supporting a record number of people in employment.”

On an annual basis, GDP expanded by 1.5% in the third quarter, compared to the same three months in 2016.

Sterling shot up following the release, rising more than 0.3% against both the US dollar and the euro to 1.317 and 1.119, respectively.

Sterling rises versus US dollar follow UK GDP results (PA)

Darren Morgan, the ONS head of national accounts, said: “Services, led by increases in IT, motor trades and retail, continued to drive GDP growth.

“Manufacturing also boosted the economy with an improved performance after a weak second quarter.

“However, construction output fell for the second consecutive quarter, although it remains above its pre-downturn peak.”

Britain’s powerhouse services sector, which accounts for around 79% of the UK economy, grew by 0.4% during the third quarter, the same rate as the three months before.

The main drivers came from the business services and finance sector, which climbed by 0.6% during the period.

Industrial production also expanded by 1%, boosted by a 1% jump from manufacturing and a 1.5% rise from mining and quarrying.

It helped offset a dismal performance from the construction sector, which fell by 0.7% between July and September – the lowest drop since the third quarter of 2012.

It means the construction industry is now in recession after also declining by 0.5% in the second quarter.

John Hawksworth, PwC’s chief economist, said: “​These numbers do not change the big picture for the UK, which is of an economy that has slowed due to higher inflation linked to the weak pound and Brexit-related uncertainty dragging on business investment.

“But we should not overdo the gloom as there is nothing in this or other recent data to suggest that the slowdown is in danger of turning into a recession.”

A separate measure of the services sector – the index of services – showed output growth of 0.2% between July and August this year.

Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: “The UK is not growing as fast as many of our trading partners in the EU or the USA, and it is becoming increasingly clear that this Government has to use next month’s Budget for a change of direction.”

Press Association

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