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 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.
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.
January is usually the time for a bit of restraint after the festive period’s excesses. For people in the UK it might last beyond January given the ongoing squeeze on incomes. But if you’re looking for better news on this Blue Monday you’ll find it in UK manufacturing performance, company profitability and global growth.
It wasn’t blockbuster but UK GDP growth was slightly better than expected last quarter, lending a little support to members of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee minded to raise rates this week. But will it be enough to get a rate hike over the line? We’ll find out lunchtime on Thursday. Continue reading