Rising oil prices means that, like the eponymous shark Jaws, inflation keeps coming back. Manufacturers report tighter margins and consumers face a summer of squeezed budgets. Just when you thought it was over eh!
The squeeze on living standards hasn’t gone away
In recent months an emerging narrative has been that the squeeze on UK living standards has relaxed or even ended. This refers to the pace of annual earnings growth overtaking inflation. However, real earnings growth remains modest at best. Meanwhile the squeeze continues for public sector workers on pay caps (1% p.a.) and households experiencing a multi-year freeze on working-age welfare benefits (until 2020). In light of the fact that the price of necessities including utility bills, motoring costs, rates bills and private sector rents (for Northern Ireland) are all rising at substantial rates and above the headline rate of inflation, it is premature to talk of a meaningful end to the cost of living squeeze. Continue reading
Today sees the release of April data from the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI®. The latest report – produced for Ulster Bank by IHS Markit – signalled a mild acceleration in private sector business activity growth, while new orders continued to increase, albeit only marginally quicker than March’s 17-month low. Nonetheless, despite subdued demand pressures, backlogs of work increased further, prompting firms to hire additional staff. In line with a strong and accelerated rate of input cost inflation, businesses reported a further marked increase selling charges.
Earnings squeeze is over
The combination of accelerating wage growth and an easing in inflationary pressures is clearly good news for consumers. In February, annual UK wage growth (2.8%) finally overtook the equivalent rate of inflation (2.7%) for the first time since the start of 2017. Following the latest figures for March this trend looks set to continue. The annual rate of UK consumer price inflation (CPI) eased to 2.5% in March – its weakest rate in twelve months. The price of consumer goods (e.g. food & clothing) inflation eased from 3% y/y in February to 2.4% in March. Conversely, consumer services inflation nudged higher to 2.5% over the same period.
Today sees the release of March data from the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI®. The latest report – produced for Ulster Bank by IHS Markit – pointed to weaker rises in both output and new orders at Northern Ireland companies. Continue reading
Ulster Bank had its annual Pre-Balmoral Show breakfast this morning. It discussed and outlined some of the key issues around the performance and outlook for the agri-food sector. Continue reading
The Ulster Bank NI PMI for January 2018 is out today. It shows a pick-up in growth momentum in the Northern Ireland private sector. Business activity rose at the fastest pace since December 2016 . A sharper increase in input costs was also recorded, however, and companies continued to raise their prices at a marked pace. Continue reading
The pre-Christmas shopping rush seems to have coincided with inflation’s peak. Consumers and retailers alike will be hoping for an easier ride this year.
Today sees the release of November data from the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI®. The latest report – produced for Ulster Bank by IHS Markit – pointed to further solid increases in output and new orders, with rates of expansion in both slightly quicker than those recorded in October. Rising workloads led to a further accumulation of outstanding business, with companies increasing staffing levels accordingly. Meanwhile, input cost inflation accelerated to a six-month high. Continue reading
Last week’s data suggests inflation’s recent run-up could very well be peaking. That would be welcome. The less good news was a rare decline in the number of people in work. Here’s hoping that’s just a blip. Continue reading