NI Economy: The key facts

ni economy.pngWe’ve all heard the oft-used phrase ‘the economy is the number one priority’. However, there is perhaps still a deficit in terms of public understanding of economic issues.  People perhaps don’t realise how far Northern Ireland lags the rest of the UK in terms of GVA (and the gap has been widening) or how much more Northern Ireland receives in public spending. Continue reading

Housing recovery, but legacy of boom lives on

key-979593_1280.jpgAs we approach the 10th anniversary of Northern Ireland’s house price peak (and subsequent correction), we’ve been seeing some encouraging signs in the housing market across a range of indicators. Despite the ongoing recovery over the last few years, though, it is fair to say that this does not mean we are ‘recovered’.  Indeed, ‘a recovery’ in house prices / house building back to the freak peaks of 2006/2007 is neither expected nor viewed as desirable. Continue reading

Economic Gongs: Best and worst performers in an ongoing drama

It had everything. There was intrigue, espionage, breakups, non-stop drama, and no end of fiction and fantasy. But whether you regard last year as the prelude to an economic horror, or something from an altogether more uplifting genre, what is clear is that 2016 was an epic, with significant implications for the local, national, and global economies. So with the annual Academy Awards having just been handed out, we’ve decided to suggest some potential winners of a hypothetical Economic Gongs. Here are the economies, personalities and organisations we think should be in contention for a range of bespoke categories.

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Three-in-a-row: NI notches up its 3rd year of house price growth

5474802142_e51c292c1b_bThis year will mark the tenth anniversary of Northern Ireland’s house price peak which heralded the start of a sustained period of collateral damage for the wider economy and not just the housing market. Residential property prices peaked in Q3 2007 and subsequently troughed in Q1 2013, down a whopping 57% some 5½ years later. Since then the housing market has been in recovery mode with three successive years of house price growth. For many homeowners the last ten years has represented a lost decade with aspirations blighted by negative equity. However, the combination of house price growth and time (assuming repayments) has seen the incidence of negative equity recede.

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Growth of business activity remains solid, but inflationary pressures intensify

Today sees the release of January data from the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI®. The latest report – produced for Ulster Bank by Markit – pointed to a positive start to 2017, with further increases in output, new orders and employment recorded. That said, rates ofexpansion eased from the end of last year. Meanwhile, price pressures continued to intensify, with rates of inflation for both input costs and output prices among the sharpest in the survey’s history.

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SUVs get the Toblerone treatment

lexus-1938299_1280.jpgWe’ve heard of the Crane Count, the Cappuccino Index, and even the Big Mac Index – each an alternative means of examining and predicting trends in the economy. But analysing the local carpark is perhaps an even more insightful way of understanding the various forces impacting on consumers, companies and economies, from geopolitics to the price of a barrel of oil and movements in the exchange rate. In many respects, the car park is a microcosm of the economy, and having a look at what people use to get themselves from A to B can tell us more than economists’ spreadsheets and even Bank of England briefings. Continue reading

Chief Economist’s Weekly Briefing – Better than expected

eu-1473958_1920The Bank of England’s upgrade to its GDP growth forecast this year takes it almost back to pre-referendum levels.  Meanwhile the Government published some of its post-Brexit policy goals in a discussion document.

BoostThe Monetary Policy Committee’s new forecasts show GDP growth of 2% for the UK this year. Continue reading

Diverging economic picture set to continue in 2017

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Divergence has been a key theme of the Northern Ireland economy during recent years, with our economic performance consistently diverging from – i.e. falling further behind – the rest of the UK. But divergence has recently become more prominent in others areas too, including between the first and second half of 2016, the performance between sectors, within the labour market, and in terms of our domestic and export performance. And this is a theme that is set to become even more prominent in 2017. Continue reading

The Cost of Living Crisis, Part Two?

Mark Twain said that whilst history doesn’t repeat itself, it does often rhyme. This may ring increasingly true in the months ahead, as we move into what you might call the cost of living crisis part two. For most of the last parliament, prices were rising faster than wages and the phrase ‘the cost of living crisis’ became extremely well used. However, inflation then eased, wage rises were evident, and consumers actually enjoyed something of a sweet spot. Today, that phenomenon is set to come to an abrupt end, and something of a sequel to the un-consumer-friendly conditions of a few years ago appears to be in train. Continue reading

Last orders for low inflation?

For the last two years or so, UK households have been in the midst of what has been dubbed a consumer sweet spot – low inflation aided by a sustained period of falling food, fuel and petrol prices. But times are changing. The significant fall in the value of the pound has started to fuel import price inflation – while exporters benefit from a weak pound, it is worth remembering we import more than we export. But it will be well into 2017 before we see the main impact of sterling’s depreciation on consumer prices. Continue reading