Chief Economist’s Weekly Briefing – Top Targeting

Last week brought good and bad news for households facing a cost of living crisis.  First, the bad: Ofgem gave early warning that it expects to raise the default tariff by an eye-watering 42% in October.  That will push typical gas and electricity bills to £2,800.  Better news comes from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who unveiled a fresh package of measures to support households (with giveaways partially funded by a windfall tax on oil and gas companies).  It’s big, timely and well targeted. The burning question is: will these new fiscal measures add fuel to the inflationary fire or not?

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No Netflix and chill, and hold the popcorn and Pringles…

In practically every economy, bar perhaps the likes of China, consumer spending is the dominant factor in driving economic growth. In recent years, the pandemic and lockdown restrictions turned consumer spending habits on their head. When it wasn’t possible to spend money on certain things such as holidays and hospitality, we doubled down on our online spending on garden furniture, home entertainment, fitness products and all manner of other things. Indeed, we saw a dramatic change in spending habits in a matter of weeks that under normal circumstances would have happened over many years.

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Chief Economist’s Weekly Briefing – Back to 1982 or 1974?

Inflation has soared again in April and the UK now has the highest rate of inflation in the G7. European as well as UK households are enduring a cost-of-living crisis; and for the UK the situation is set to worsen in October when energy price cap is expected to be raised again. In the meantime, the global food system is under threat due to the war. Wheat prices surged further, after India – the world’s second largest producer – said it would suspend exports. Hadly surprising then that the mood is darkening.

Inflation written newspaper close up shot to the text.
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Hiking season has begun… time to head for the hill

We’ve become well used to price hikes with rampant inflation, but last month was marked by tax hikes with the increase in National Insurance Contributions hitting the pockets of many employees as well as employers. The attention now though is very firmly on interest rate hikes with the Federal Reserve having just delivered its first 0.5% rate increase in 22 years with more to come as the Fed seeks to tame inflation which is at 40-year-high.

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Chief Economist’s Weekly Briefing – Losing Steam

March GDP data signals that economic activity is losing steam as the cost of living crisis begins to bite. With a bigger squeeze still to come, the spectre of stagflation looms large and unwanted attention is falling on the Bank of England over untamed inflation. Worries are certainly mounting, with China’s strict lockdowns weighing on global trade and April’s inflation figures – the first to include the 54% energy price cap jump – expected to show another sharp rise.

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The big issues we need an Executive in place to address

If the politicians can agree to form an Executive following last week’s election, there will be no shortage of major issues for the incoming Ministers to deal with. If a First and Deputy First Minster are appointed, the next step will be the allocation of Ministerial Departments. We are well used to Health being seen as the poisoned chalice but this time around, Covid and the cost-of-living crisis will mean that there are no easy briefs. Budgets across the departments will be under extreme pressure and every Minister will be severely challenged. The Executive is often criticised for being short-termist and putting off much needed reforms for the medium to long term. In this Assembly, the risk is that short-term pressures will completely drown out the focus on progressing other, strategic needs. So, it is more important than ever that an incoming Executive is focused, cohesive, and prepared to take tough decisions. Here are some of the major short and longer-term issues they will have to contend with.

Large orange plastic pipes for sewerage system.

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Chief Economist’s Weekly Briefing – The big squeeze

As central banks around the world tightening monetary policy, our own Bank of England warned that the UK economy could enter a recession. Yet inflationary pressure continue to build; the G-7 countries pledged on Sunday phasing out or banning the import of Russian oil (the EU, US and UK made similar announcements before).  Meanwhile Northern Ireland’s electorate waits to see when / if Stormont’s Executive can be restored. After all, there are no shortage of difficult issues to get stuck into. 

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Chief Economist’s Weekly Briefing – To Hike or to Hold

Weaker than expected Euro area growth, unexpected contraction of the US economy and concerns about the Chinese economy, clouded the outlook last week. In the week ahead, the Bank of England is facing the toughest balancing act between curbing recent record high inflation and not weighing too heavily on GDP growth amid a cost-of-living crisis. 

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Episode 18 | Under the Tractor Bonnet with Cormac McKervey – April 2022

The podcast that keeps you up to date with what is happening economy-wise in Northern Ireland.  Telling you what you need to know but not necessarily what you want to hear. It is better to be prepared for the economic environment we are operating in and not the world we would like to be in.

In this episode, Richard Ramsey welcomes Cormac McKervey – Head of Agriculture at Ulster Bank NI to the podcast.

The cost-of-living crisis hasn’t been the only crisis dominating the airwaves lately. Warnings of a global food crisis are coming in thick and fast. Last week the World Bank’s president David Malpass warned the world faces a “human catastrophe” from a food crisis resulting from the Russian – Ukraine conflict.  The World Bank warns that the Ukraine War is set to cause the largest commodity shock since the 1970s. This warning comes when global food prices were already at record highs.  According to the UN global food prices jumped 34% y/y with wheat and oils rising by almost one-fifth and one-quarter in the month following the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. The World Bank projects we could see another huge rise in food prices of 37%.

The Ulster Economix Podcast is also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify. Be sure to Subscribe on your favourite Podcast platform to be the first to hear next month’s episode.