The Chancellor opted not to make any changes to tax or spending policy at last week’s Spring Statement, so instead the focus was firmly on the economic assumptions that underpin the public finances.
President Trump imposes tariffs to protect heavy industry whilst a new group of countries slashes barriers.
The Ulster Bank NI PMI for February 2018 is out today. It signalled that the Northern Ireland private sector remained comfortably inside growth territory. That said, rates of expansion in output, new orders and employment all eased over the month. On the other hand, inflationary pressures intensified, with sharper rises in both input costs and prices charged.
Last week’s snow induced disruption will have heaped pressure on sectors like retail, leisure and construction. Firms will have to fight hard amid cancellations to manage cash flow and clear backlogs. It might even knock a tenth of a percent or two off Q1 GDP growth. But it is consumers’ attitudes to borrowing which is raising bigger questions for the health of the economy.
A graph charting instances of house prices being discussed at dinner parties across Belfast and Dublin would show a very large spike around 2007 followed by a deep trough in the years after the boom rediscovered gravity. Indeed, the subject became almost taboo as the downturn unfolded and residential property prices fell almost 60% from their respective peaks.
A graph charting instances of house prices being discussed at dinner parties across Northern Ireland would show a very large spike around 2007 followed by a deep trough in the years after the boom rediscovered gravity. Indeed, the subject became almost taboo as the downturn unfolded.
One swallow a summer does not make, but two swallows? Probably still not enough for a turning point, however much we’d like the UK to crack its productivity problem.
Inflation is pushing UK consumers to take it easy at the shops meaning they’re no longer leading the charge on growth. Meanwhile new technology is shaking up the long established order in world oil markets.
These slides provide an update on the latest figures for the Northern Ireland economy.
2017 highlighted the extent to which Northern Ireland has a high dependency on a small number of large firms. This can be seen in the latest Northern Ireland Economic Composite Index. It showed a fall in the index in Q3 2017, driven by a huge drop in the food beverages and tobacco sector. This dragged Northern Ireland manufacturing output down, falling at its fastest rate since the global recession. This was almost entirely down to the closure of the JTI tobacco factory in Ballymena. Take it out of the equation and it would have been a very different story.
This year, we are also going to see the closure of the Michelin factory in Ballymena, which will hit the manufacturing figures hard again in 2018. And then we have the closure of Schlumberger to come. Changes in things like regulations and costs can lead these foreign-owned companies to make swift decisions to move their operations to other locations around the globe.