Chief Economist’s Weekly Briefing – Getting better all the time

London_Eye_sunset_study_-_P1040370.jpgWhether it’s booming car sales or rising job satisfaction the data says the UK is in a good place. Or maybe that’s the after effects of a sunny weekend…

Service charge. Nine months on from the EU referendum result, the UK’s service sector hasn’t lost its mojo. According to the March PMI the sector notched up its fastest rate of growth for the year with an overall score of 55, up from February’s 53.3. Firms remain very optimistic for the future but inflationary pressures remain a concern. Input cost inflation eased last month relative to February’s near 8-1/2 year peak but still remain high. Passing these costs on to customers through higher charges remains a priority, sharpening the focus on this week’s inflation data. Continue reading

Activity rises solidly, but new order growth eases to five-month low

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Today sees the release of March data from the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI®. The latest report – produced for Ulster Bank by Markit – indicated that a solid rise in business activity ended a positive first quarter of the year. Further increases were also seen in new orders and employment. Meanwhile, rates of inflation remained elevated as a result of sterling weakness. Continue reading

10-year car sales high flattered by tax changes

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March a 10-year high for NI new car sales

March was a record month for new car sales in the UK and a 10-year high in Northern Ireland. There were 8,556 new cars sold locally last month, just over 1,000 fewer (11%) than the pre-recession peak of 9,564 in March 2006. The near 10% y/y rise in local new car sales last month compared favourably with a UK increase of 8.5%.  However, Northern Ireland’s sales figures are coming off a lower base and follow declines recorded in earlier months. Continue reading

Chief Economist’s Weekly Briefing – Happy birthday to EU and goodbye

Sterling is down 12% since the referendum and some effects of its decline are becoming apparent.

Pound.jpgPipeline pressures. Sterling’s weakness has fuelled import cost inflation. Manufacturers’ raw material costs rose by 19% y/y in February and firms have been passing some of these costs on to customers. Back in June factory gate prices were falling on an annual basis. Subsequently, output price growth has accelerated in every single month. Last month they were up 3.7% y/y the largest increase since December 2011. Price rises were evident across all product categories from food to fuel. Consumers have been warned. Further price rises are coming. Continue reading

Inflation rising, and more in the post

newspapers-444447_1280.jpgWe’re still well off letter-writing territory, but inflation saw a significant jump from 1.8% year-on-year in January to 2.3% last month. This is the highest rate of inflation since September 2013 and marks the arrival of the consumer price rises that the Ulster Bank NI PMI has been flagging for some months. The main driver is the acceleration in the price of consumer goods – everything from new cars to newspapers – where inflation was virtually non-existent just four months ago. Continue reading