One of two stories will probably emerge from Friday’s first reading on how the British economy fared at the end of last year.
If it shrank 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter as the consensus of economists polled by Reuters expects, or worse, we will hear it raises the disastrous spectre of a third recession in four years, or a “triple-dip”.
If it defies expectations by growing slightly, that risk is averted and the government will say it shows the economy is getting back on its feet.
While both stories have profound political implications, in economic terms they are really aspects of the same thing: Britain’s economy has been drifting around the margins of mediocrity for the last few years, and will probably do so for years to come.
Stephen Lewis, chief economist at Monument Securities, offered this wider view of Britain’s economy in Wednesday’s Reuters poll: