MacroScope

Still not thinking the very thinkable on Britain’s future

Mark these words. Not only is Britain going to avoid a triple-dip recession, but the economy won’t shrink again as far as the eye can see.

If that sounds ridiculously optimistic, don’t tell the more than 30 economists polled by Reuters last week, none of whom predict even a single quarter of economic decline from here on.

Even the Bank of England, not exactly famous these days for its accuracy in economic forecasting, has said for a long time that a quarter or two of contraction here and there is to be expected. That was underlined by Wednesday’s unexpected news some policymakers voted for more bond purchases this month.

And most Britons are now used to an economy that has done little but vacillate between growth and contraction over the last few years.

It seems only the market economists, working mainly for banks and research institutions, are leaning firmly towards growth.

The wider point about Britain’s “triple-dip” recession threat

Britain’s economy shrank an estimated 0.3 percent at the end of 2012 and every major media outlet says it points to a big risk of a triple-dip recession.

And equally predictably, some economists have already pointed out it’s a preliminary report, so maybe the economy isn’t as weak as the stats show. Negative figures have been revised away in the past.

While both points may well be true, they really amount to a squabble over whether your football team is going to go 4-0 down or 5-0 down. As Markit Economics pointed out, Friday’s figures mean that UK GDP remains some 3.2 percent lower than the peak of Q1 2008.

BoEasing

The Bank of England is finally catching a break. With Britain’s economy officially in recession, the BoE had been constrained from further monetary easing by a stubbornly high inflation rate. But as the global economy stumbles and Europe’s crisis rages unabated, UK price pressures may be giving way.

Barclays economist Chris Crowe argues:

We expect the MPC to announce an additional £50bn in QE at the July policy meeting.

CPI inflation fell to 2.8% y/y in May (Barclays 3.1%, consensus 3.0%) from 3.0% in April. Meanwhile, RPI inflation declined to 3.1% y/y (Barclays and consensus 3.3%), from 3.5%. With near-term inflationary pressures easing, the case for additional QE in response to faltering confidence is stronger.

An even more British excuse

Britons have a reputation for endless talk about the weather, and the UK’s Office for National Statistics is no different.

We’ve already noted how the ONS cited the effect of the royal wedding and surrounding bank holidays as one reason why the economy only managed growth of 0.2 percent quarter-on-quarter between March and June.

While that’s taken up most of the talk, the ONS also pointed to the “record warm weather in April” as another “special event” that dented economic growth.

A very British excuse

This time it was the royal wedding. When the economy shrank unexpectedly late last year, it was the bad weather. If Britain’s economy again struggles to generate growth in the current quarter, perhaps it will be blamed on the new series of ‘The Apprentice’.

"Thanks for nothing!"

Britain’s economy grew 0.2 percent quarter-on-quarter between March and June, exactly in-line with the Reuters poll consensus. Perhaps the most interesting part of the GDP release statement was the Office for National Statistics’ claim that without special factors, including the royal wedding, growth could have hit 0.7 percent.

That would have taken the GDP index at market prices back above 100 points – its 2006 base level – for the first time since the recession, but as it happened, it fell just short, at 99.8.

Another shocker on the way for UK growth?

Could British economic growth figures for the second quarter mark another shocker for bank economists?

After the 0.5 percent contraction in the fourth quarter of last year that no-one foresaw, we remarked that economists seemed loath to spoil the party by predicting a negative figure.

Although some economic data did hint that a slight downturn was on the cards, no-one then was willing to stick their neck out and predict a contraction. In the end, the 0.5 percent quarter-on-quarter decline was a whole percentage point off the consensus for a 0.5 percent expansion.

Darkening outlook for UK housing

The outlook for the UK housing market has darkened again. The usually optimistic bunch of property market watchers polled by Reuters, who have tended to predict ever-rising property prices no matter what the season or financial climate, now say the market will move sideways for the next two years.

housing1.jpgThey say that in the next few months, the small double-dip in prices that has begun will continue. Modest gains predicted less than three months ago for this year and next essentially have been wiped away.

No one should be surprised by this.  It smacks of an awakening to reality more than a slight change to a few variables in the statistical model. What’s perhaps most striking about these new poll results is that economists think houses are even more overvalued now than they were in July even after a few straight months of falls.

from UK News:

BoE’s King “doesn’t do sex appeal”

Bank of England Governor Mervyn King was on good form when he addressed the Royal Society – Britain’s oldest scientific discussion club – on the vexing issue of communicating complex forecasts to the great unwashed.

Aside from his usual moan about the media’s desire to reduce the BoE’s beautiful but baffling ‘fan charts’ of inflation forecasts to one or two numbers, he made a rare and welcome admission that in past years the central bank had not done as well as it could have to flag up the risk that a financial crisis was about to happen.

The BoE’s financial stability reports – like those from many other central banks – sometimes sounded as if they were crying wolf in the years running up to the credit crunch by warning of pretty much every risk to markets short of Martian invasion.

Scams from Abuja to Reykjavik

It suffered the collapse of its currency, economy and banking system so being invoked in a version of the notorious Nigerian email scam is one of the smaller humiliations endured by Iceland.

The confidence trick, which has roots in the 18th century, usually involves an email from someone claiming to be either a deposed African dictator or a Nigerian lawyer, promising a sum of money in return for help to access a substantial fortune.

But the latest spam email making its rounds purports to be from Iceland, one of the highest profile sovereign casualties of the global financial crisis. This version of the email is supposedly from a “devoted christian (sic)” from Iceland”, a widow seeking help to access $6 million in a Canadian bank left to her by her husband who worked for an oil giant for 19 years.

The word on Gordon Brown from Cayman

Gordon Brown is truly having a rough time. Rebuffed by the United States, International Monetary Fund and others for floating the idea of a tax on financial transactions at this weekend’s G20 meeting, he has now got short shrift from the Cayman Islands.

McKeeva Bush, the veteran Caymanian politican who is now premier of the British Overseas Territory, popped in to the Reuters London headquarters for a chat this week. His main concern was to explain plans for making the islands an easier place for financial services personnel to live in. He would like some of those 8,000 hedge nearly 10,000 funds that are registered there to be more than just brass plaques. But, when asked, he also had time to dismiss the idea of a transaction tax out of hand.

“That’s an old hat. I have been hearing about it for 25 years. It’s just not practicable. It will not work.”