Two reports on business confidence in the UK have just been published. The first, by Lloyds TSB Commercial, is its twice-yearly Business in Britain Report. The second is the Quarterly Economic Survey by the British Chambers of Commerce. Both reports paint a mixed picture about business confidence.
First the good news: the export sector is booming. Demand for exports is being boosted by (a) the depreciation of the pound, with the sterling exchange rate index some 20% lower now compared with the start of 2008 and (b) rapid economic growth in China, India and many other developing countries. Not surprisingly many exporting companies are looking to a bright future and are willing to invest.
Now the bad news. Domestic demand for many products is declining, especially services. This is not surprising given the rise in VAT, cuts in public spending and consumers cautious about their employment and income prospects in the coming year. With rapid cost-push inflation from higher oil and commodity prices, real incomes are set to fall and with it the level of real consumer demand (see Bosses gain – workers’ pain).
So where is the economy heading? The mixed picture painted by the two reports mean that the economy is likely to remain on the cusp. But with the export sector being much smaller than the domestic market, worries are likely to persist that economic growth may well slow significantly and the economy might return to recession. The main hope is that the restocking and replacement investment that follow a recession may be enough to provide just enough extra demand to avoid the ‘double dip’.
UK Business Confidence Hit By Domestic Demand Fears-Survey NASDAQ, Emma Haslett (4/1/11)
More doom and gloom as business confidence falls? Management Today, Nicholas Winning (5/1/11)
Smaller businesses do not share optimism Financial Times, Brian Groom (5/1/11)
New Year business confidence hit by domestic demand fears The Telegraph, James Hurley (5/1/11)
UK’s fragile services sector risks undermining recovery, BCC warns The Telegraph, Philip Aldrick (11/1/11)
Companies fear double-dip recession Oxford Mail, Andrew Smith (10/1/11)
Firms ‘planning investment freezes’ Press Association (4/1/11)
Surveys paint bleak picture for British economy Reuters, David Milliken (11/1/11)
Kern Says U.K. Services Industry Growth Is `Mediocre’ Bloomberg, Watch Video, David Kern (11/1/11)
UK economic growth rate slowing, BCC says BBC News (11/1/11)
Business in Britain, December 2010 Lloyds TSB Commercial (January 2011)
Quarterly Economic Survey, Q4 2010: Summary British Chambers of Commerce (January 2011)
Quarterly Economic Survey, Q4 2010: Tables British Chambers of Commerce (January 2011)
Interest Rates and Exchange Rates Bank of England (for sterling effective exchange rates)
Economic and Labour Market Review Office for National Statistics (see Tables Chapter 1, worksheets in Table 1.03 for components of aggregate demand)
Business and Consumer Surveys European Commission, Economic and Financial Affairs (see latest ESI – Economic Sentiment Indicator, Table 1)
- Summarise the findings of the two reports.
- Using the data in Table 1.03 of the Economic and Labour Market Review, calculate the percentage of UK GDP accounted for by each of the main elements of aggregate expenditure.
- Why is the manufacturing sector as a whole experiencing relatively strong economic growth?
- If the service sector shrank by x% and the manufacturing sector grew by x%, what would be likely to happen to the rate of economic growth in the economy? What else would you need to know to establish the precise rate of economic growth?
- The BCC said both the government and the Bank of England must “act forcefully to support growth”. What measures would this include?
- If real wages fall, what could cause real aggregate demand to rise in these circumstances?
- What is likely to drive the level of investment in the coming months?