Chief Economist’s Weekly Briefing – Slowing

The Monetary Policy Committee kept official interest rates unchanged last week, as expected. The big determinant of when they do move will be the the labour market reaction to the end of the furlough scheme. In the meantime, soaring energy prices, rising inflation and worker shortages are continuing. The challenges to the recovery are mounting. But adults in Northern Ireland will have £100 from the High Street Voucher Scheme to soften the blow.

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Business activity declines for tenth month running at end of 2019

Today sees the release of December data from the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI®. The latest report – produced for Ulster Bank by IHS Markit – signalled further reductions in output and new orders, but rates of decline softened. Meanwhile, companies increased their staffing levels for the first time in a year and confidence regarding the 12-month outlook for activity improved amid reduced uncertainty around Brexit. On the price front, the rate of input cost inflation softened again and companies lowered their output prices for the first time in over four years.

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Downturn deepens in Northern Ireland private sector

Today sees the release of June data from the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI®. The latest report – produced for Ulster Bank by IHS Markit – signalled a deepening downturn in the Northern Ireland private sector. Brexit uncertainty led to sharper falls in output and new orders, with firms pessimistic regarding the 12-month outlook.

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House prices continue to rise but activity on the turn?

Northern Ireland Residential Property Price Index Comment

Northern Ireland’s housing market has been a source of continued positivity in recent years, with housebuilding, prices, transactions and mortgage activity all at multi-year highs.  Though the property market remains in recovery mode, rather than recovered, following the biggest residential property downturn in UK history.

Residential property price growth has been slowing in both the UK and Republic of Ireland markets. The latest Residential Property Price Index for Northern Ireland points to a similar trend. Residential property prices posted their first quarterly fall in two years in Q1 2019 with a 1.0% decline.  Annual house price growth eased from 5.1% in Q4 2018 to a more sustainable 3.5% in Q1 2019 – a rate that remains above consumer price inflation and broadly in line with average earnings growth. Lower rates of house price inflation (2-3% p.a.) are to be welcomed.

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Weekly Brief – Unparalleled times

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Prime Minister Theresa May is due to unveil Brexit plan B to Parliament today but it is unlikely to differ much from her first version. Following a crushing defeat on the Withdrawal Agreement and having narrowly survived a no-confidence vote, Mrs May offered an olive branch of cross party talks but was rebuffed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Talk of an extension of Article 50 is on the rise but an exit from EU without a deal is still possible.
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