An unexpected decline in April GDP, driven by sharply weaker manufacturing activity, has increased the risks of UK growth stagnating, or even contracting, in Q2 2019. Still, continued favourable labour market conditions remain a key support for the resilient consumer, lessening the risks of a more pronounced downturn.
A weaker than expected US employment report is adding to rising concerns about the global economy, fuelling expectations that the Federal Reserve will cut rates soon, possibly this summer. ECB president Draghi signalled the door is open for further monetary measures to support the weak Euro area economy, if needed.
Global trade tensions are ratcheting up. Whilst the US and China trade blows President Trump warned of a 5% increase in tariffs on Mexican imports, rising 5% a month up to a maximum 25% in October. Meanwhile China’s manufacturing PMI came in a little soft. But tariffs can only partly be blamed there.
The resignation of UK PM Theresa May has prompted a flurry of contenders for the Tory leadership – the contest officially begins June 10th with the victor likely announced by the end of July. Boris Johnson is the bookies’ early favourite, fanning fears about a possible no-deal Brexit. The strong showing of the Brexit party in EU highlights increased fragmentation in UK politics. Meanwhile, latest UK data shows consumers continue to open their wallets.
The UK labour market remains in rude health, a key support for the household sector. In contrast, US and Chinese retail sales disappointed. Meanwhile, German growth rebounded in early 2019 but the economy remains fragile.
US/Sino trade tensions are rising. US President Trump’s announcement of new tariffs on Chinese imports has prompted threats of retaliation by China, posing downside risks to the global economy as supply chains are disrupt and business sentiment suffers. Meanwhile, UK Q1 GDP data highlights the resilience of the UK economy.
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 that the Northern Ireland private sector moved deeper into contraction territory. Business activity, new orders and employment all fell to the greatest extents since the final quarter of 2012, with Brexit and a lack of government at Stormont impacting negatively on operations. Weakening demand led companies to raise their selling prices at only a modest pace during the month, despite continued sharp input cost inflation.
The US economy is the main engine of global growth, posting higher than expected growth in Q1 2019. In China, latest GDP data hints at a stabilisation in activity thanks largely to another sizeable fiscal boost. However, recent downbeat Euro area business surveys point to a continued sub-par performance in early 2019.
This week is likely to see the EU grant a longer, but more conditional, extension to Article 50 than the UK Government has requested. Back in Westminster talks continue to try to find a set of proposals that can be passed by the House of Commons. Away from the politics, most economic data has been disappointing.
Today sees the release of March data from the Ulster Bank Northern Ireland PMI®. The latest report – produced for Ulster Bank by IHS Markit – suggested that Brexit uncertainty pushed the Northern Ireland private sector into decline. Business activity decreased for the first time since July 2016, while the rate of decline in new orders gathered pace. This was also the case with regards to employment, which decreased to the greatest extent in almost six years.