Planes, cranes and automobiles…

We’re just over a month-and-a-half into 2018, and planes have been dominating the economic news agenda this year so far.

On the one hand, we’ve had the trade dispute between Boeing and Bombardier come to a head, following weeks and indeed months of hand-wringing about the potential impact of any tariffs on the Canadian firm’s Belfast operations. On the other hand, we’ve had another stream of good news on the tourism front, as more and more overseas visitors flock to Belfast and Northern Ireland.

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Chief Economist’s Weekly Brief On the up

Economic news from the Eurozone and US was generally very good last week.  Bond yields are pushing higher as a result.  That’s good news for people worrying about the possibility of more years of slow growth and low interest rates, sometimes called secular stagnation. It’s also a relief to the many firms grappling with big pension deficits.  Continue reading

2017 a positive year but dogs on street know there are challenges ahead

Overall, 2017 has probably been a more positive year for the Northern Ireland economy than many would have expected. A wide range of indicators have improved during the 12 months, including private sector employment (now at a record high), construction activity, and both tourism and trade. However, many other indicators have been on the decline, and there are also some clear warning signs that the economy will begin to slow down in 2018. Here is a flavour of some of the key trends we have seen this year, and which will set the context for moving into the 12 months ahead. Continue reading

No surprise that new car sales are falling


Northern Ireland retailers have benefited from the tourism boom and a surge in cross-border shoppers.  With the latter boosted by the post-EU referendum depreciation in sterling. This provides a veneer of consumer strength driven by visitors. However, the underlying picture is somewhat weaker.

New car sales are a key barometer of consumer confidence and provide a more meaningful indicator of the health of the consumer. Inflation has been outpacing wage growth and this is sapping household disposable incomes. A significant range of welfare benefits are also in the midst of a multi-year freeze. Against this background it is perhaps not surprising that the biggest discretionary spending item after housing, new car sales, are falling.

Showrooms reported their worst October for sales of new cars in five years, with registrations for the first 10months of the year down over 5% y/y.

2017 looks set to see the biggest annual decline since 2011. Local new car sales are over 20% below their peak in 2007.

This compares with the UK where new car sales, though falling, are still 8% above their pre-recession high. 2018 is also expected to be a challenging year for the local consumer with the cost of living squeeze set to tighten its grip.

Chief Economist’s Weekly Briefing – All work and no pay

people-2568530_1920.jpgWith unemployment at a 40-year low, wages should be rising at roughly twice their current pace. That they are not reflects rising supply, a shift to self-employment, less job switching than usual and, above all, stagnant productivity. It can also stump central banks used to the conventional relationship between work and pay. Continue reading

10 key questions the EU Referendum result raises for Northern Ireland

So, the UK has voted to leave the EU. But what does that actually mean? For now, it means no change, as David Cameron signalled today that his successor decides whether to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. Only when this happens does the clock start to tick on two years of negotiation for the UK’s exit from the EU. In the meantime, we have seen heavy falls in UK equities, sterling has slumped, and we can anticipate further short-term volatility. But what are the key questions emerging from the Referendum results from a NI perspective? Continue reading

Chief Economist’s Weekly Brief – Never a dull moment

A former Bank of England Governor once said of central banking that “boring is best”. Last week though, central bankers were once again hogging the limelight. First off, the US Federal Reserve, which having raised rates must now work out whether the economy can support them. Second the Bank of Japan, which joined the negative rate club. And with all eyes on the Bank of England this week, “boring” seems a distant memory.

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