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.
The old saying is that the US economy sneezes and the rest of the world catches cold. This phrase reflected the old influence and dominance of America in the global economy. However, since the worldwide recession a decade ago, China has had a spectacular rise and is challenging US hegemony. Indeed, the concerns now are about the Chinese Dragon spreading its economic germs.
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.
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.
Another strong US employment report and improved manufacturing sentiment contrasts with continued lacklustre Euro area growth and a downbeat Chinese PMI survey, highlighting diverging trends in the global economy.
UK growth has picked up a bit of speed in Q3, judging from latest monthly GDP figures, with strength widespread. However, recent favourable weather flattered the headline rate, so a moderation in growth looks likely in Q4.
Latest monthly UK PMI surveys were upbeat, hinting at firmer Q3 GDP. Increasing skill shortages suggest a pick-up in wage growth in coming months, supportive for cash strapped consumers.
Pressure eases on public finances, but not enough to finance a big Birthday gift without recourse to higher taxes.
President Trump imposes tariffs to protect heavy industry whilst a new group of countries slashes barriers.
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.