Economy to continue flatlining this year

The graph below, produce by Canadian-based bank Scotiabank, shows the evolving nature of GDP forecasts as applied to the UK economy. As we can see, this is the third consecutive year where the consensus for growth has started out at around 2 per cent before gradually being pushed down towards zero as time has passed.

The graph below, produce by Canadian-based bank Scotiabank, shows the evolving nature of GDP forecasts as applied to the UK economy over the past three years.

As we can see, this is the third consecutive year where the consensus for growth has started out at around 2 per cent before gradually being pushed down towards zero as time has passed.

Making a prediction based on trends depicted in the graph, Scotiabank say that by mid-summer they expect to be forecasting near zero GDP growth.

The report also says that the variables which impact economic growth are less favourable this year than last, meaning GDP growth could be “as low as zero”:

“The UK economy barely posted positive growth last year – up by around ¼% y/y. The question is whether growth during 2013 should be higher, lower or the same as last year…There are two key drags on growth during 2013 which suggest that output should be weaker this year than last year.

More specifically, government consumption was the fastest growing component of GDP last year – up by 2½% y/y. The latest OBR projection is for just 0.4% y/y government spending growth this year as cutbacks kick in. If that proves to be correct then it will subtract almost half a percentage point from headline GDP growth this year.

Secondly, consumer spending growth is likely to face increasing headwinds this year. 2012 was a good year for household real disposable income growth on two fronts. Employment growth surged from near zero at the start of the year to a peak of around 2% y/y by end-year. On top of that, inflation tumbled from a peak of over 5% y/y down to a low-point of just above 2% y/y. As a result real disposable income growth improved substantially, or rather, was much less negative.

Unfortunately, both trends seem to be reversing this year. Employment growth has already begun to falter and is likely to have halved by mid-year, not least given the clues from this week’s REC labour market survey. Inflation is also on the rise again – we see the peak at 3½% y/y – albeit somewhat lower than the recent peaks that exceeded 5% y/y. Hence household real disposable income growth is likely to turn down and in turn, consumer spending growth is likely to slow down this year.

…given the above, we think it is reasonable to assume that underlying growth this year will probably be in the region of 0.1 to 0.2% q/q. In turn, it is quite plausible that full-year growth could be as low as zero.”

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