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Businesses expect UK economy to slow further in 2020

Businesses expect UK economic growth to slow further next year as the US-China trade war and Brexit uncertainty continue to weigh on industry.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which represents 190,000 businesses, said on Monday it expects UK GDP to grow by just 1.2% in 2020, down from the expected 1.3% growth rate this year.

The CBI blamed Brexit for the weak economic picture, along with the US-China trade war which is hurting global growth rates.

“Should these dual headwinds subside, we expect a gradual pick-up in activity,” said Rain Newton-Smith, CBI’s chief economist.

“But the bigger picture is one of fairly modest growth over the next couple of years – growth that should be far better, given the UK’s relative strengths.”

The CBI’s weak forecast is in fact based on a best case scenario for Brexit that sees the UK leave the EU on 31 January and make smooth progress negotiating an “ambitious” trade deal with the EU that allows frictionless trade. If reality falls short of these expectations, the CBI expects GDP to grow by just 1% in 2020.

“Transforming a lost decade of productivity will only be possible if supported by a good Brexit deal – one that keeps the UK aligned with EU rules where essential for frictionless trade along with protecting the UK’s world-beating services sector, which accounts for 80% of our economy,” Newton-Smith said.

The CBI said consumer spending would continue to account for the lion’s share of growth, but government spending would also provide a growing boost thanks to major spending pledges from both main parties. Business investment is forecast to essentially flatline.

Separately, Make UK, the manufacturers lobbying group, on Monday downgraded growth forecasts for growth in its sector. Make UK and accountants BDO forecast manufacturing growth of just 0.3% in 2020, down from an earlier forecast of 0.6%. However, this would represent a pick-up on the 0.1% growth expected in 2019.

By Oscar Williams-Grut

Source: Yahoo Finance UK

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UK business confidence slumps to seven-year low

Confidence among UK businesses tumbled to its lowest level in over seven years last month, according to a new report, as yet more political uncertainty cast gloom over the economy.

Businesses in Britain’s manufacturing sector were the most pessimistic. Manufacturers are now facing “recessionary conditions,” the latest optimism index from accountants BDO said today.

The optimism index – a gauge of how companies are feeling about the economy – fell 0.67 points to 95.59 in October, just above the 95 level which indicates zero growth.

The fall was driven by a steep fall of 3.38 points in the manufacturing sector. Output in the sector also suffered, falling for a thirteenth consecutive month to hit 87.10 points. BDO said the score was “well into recessional territory”.

British growth has slowed considerably in 2019, but looks set to avoid a recession despite the economy contracting in the second quarter.

Manufacturing has borne the brunt of the slowdown, with weak global demand and ongoing Brexit uncertainty taking its toll on business investment, orders and exports.

Despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson striking a Brexit deal with the European Union in October, the upcoming General Election means uncertainty is set to linger over the economy for the time being.

BDO partner Peter Hemington said: “The last time we saw business confidence at such a low level was when the country was staggering out of the doldrums caused by the global financial crisis.

“With an unpredictable general election looming, continued political volatility in the UK remains a key driver of falling optimism.”

Dwindling confidence in the economy was accompanied by a fall in business output in October, BDO said.

Worryingly, not only the manufacturing sector but also the UK’s giant services sector registered a fall in output on BDO’s gauge.

Hemington said things did not look likely to pick up soon. “Given British businesses are telling us that new hires and investment are hard to justify at the moment,” he said, “growth will continue to remain elusive until there is some kind of resolution of the Brexit conundrum.”

By Harry Robertson

Source: City AM

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Brexit crisis pushes UK business expectations to weakest since 2011

Pessimism in British businesses rose in the three months to September to the highest level in almost eight years, as the escalating Brexit crisis weighed heavily on companies, a survey showed on Sunday.

The Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) gauge of private sector activity held steady at -6% in the three months to September, the same as in the period to August.

But business expectations for the coming three months dropped to their lowest since December 2011, across the spectrum of manufacturing, services and distribution, according to the survey of 567 companies.

Business investment has stagnated since the 2016 Brexit vote, leaving the economy more reliant on household spending for its growth.

After more than three years of crisis since a majority of Britons voted to leave the European Union, it remains unclear how, when or even whether the country will leave the bloc it joined in 1973.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised Britain will leave the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a deal and has said he would not seek an extension even if the conditions of a recently passed bill were met, forcing him to do so.

“Decision-makers in boardrooms across the country have been watching politics this week with a heavy heart. Despite all the noise, what must not be forgotten is the importance of getting the UK economy back on track,” said CBI chief economist Rain Newton-Smith.

Closely-watched business surveys from IHS Markit covering the performance of the manufacturing, construction and services sectors in September are due on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Reporting by Andy Bruce

Source: UK Reuters

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Worries mount for UK businesses and consumers as Brexit crisis builds – surveys

Confidence drained away from UK businesses and consumers in August as the Brexit crisis deepened, according to surveys that suggested the political ructions were taking an increasing toll on the economy.

The Lloyds Bank Business Barometer slid to 1% from 13% in July, its lowest level since December 2011, when Britain was struggling to recover from the global financial crisis.

Separately, a survey of consumer confidence from market research company GfK was its joint weakest since mid-2013, driven lower by deepening pessimism about the economy.

The signs of a wilting economy – similar to elsewhere in Europe – raise the stakes for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

If his gambit of suspending parliament to deliver Brexit on Oct. 31 fails, he may have to fight a national election while the world’s fifth-biggest economy falls deeper into malaise.

“(The surveys) do seem to indicate that the rebound in the third quarter that many of us anticipated on the back of a weak second quarter might be somewhat muted,” Peter Dixon said.

Britain’s economy shrank in the second quarter, a hangover from the stockpiling boom in advance of the original March Brexit deadline. Another contraction in the current quarter would officially herald a recession.

“It’s a fairly weakish environment, what with global problems and of course our own domestic issues to worry about,” Dixon added.

Business confidence declined in every region of the United Kingdom, Lloyds said, although the fall was steepest in the manufacturing-heavy East Midlands region of England.

British manufacturers, who account for about 10% of the economy, are facing the possibility of a no-deal Brexit which is likely to hurt their supply chains, plus a slowdown in the global economy.

CONSUMER CONSTERNATION
Separate data added to signs the housing market, which slowed sharply after the 2016 Brexit vote, is stabilising.

British banks approved the greatest number of mortgages in two years during July, the Bank of England said, while mortgage lender Nationwide reported house prices increased at the fastest annual pace in three months.

At -14, the GfK survey was the weakest since January, before which it had been lower only in mid-2013. All the survey’s components, including the outlook for personal finances and the economy, declined in August.

“Until Brexit leaves the front pages – whenever that will be – consumers can be forgiven for feeling nervous not just about the wider economy but also about their financial situation,” Joe Staton, client strategy director at GfK, said.

Another poll of consumers from U.S. bank Citi and pollsters YouGov showed inflation expectations among consumers for year ahead rose to their highest level since 2013.

“The increase could be driven by rising chances of a rupture with the EU on Oct. 31, which could lead to higher consumer prices via tariffs, supply disruptions and weaker sterling,” Citi economists said in a note.

By Andy Bruce

Source: UK Reuters

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Business chiefs warn Boris Johnson UK not ready for no-deal Brexit

Britain is still “underprepared” for a no-deal Brexit in October, a major business lobby group has warned Boris Johnson.

In a new report, the CBI – which represents 190,000 UK businesses – said firms had been undermined by unclear advice, cost and timelines on what leaving the EU without a deal would mean.

And they make clear that the European Union itself is also not ready for a no-deal outcome.

The warnings came as it was reported that the Government is planning a £100m no-deal advertising blitz over the next three months, as Mr Johnson ordered a shake-up of Whitehall to ready the UK to leave without an agreement on 31 October.

In its new report, the CBI says 24 out of 27 areas of the UK economy will face disruption if the country leaves the EU without a deal, and it calls on ministers to “step up” preparations for a hard exit.

The CBI calls on the Government to “immediately” put the civil service “back onto a no-deal footing” and review all Brexit preparedness advice drawn up for the previous exit date of March 2019.

The Government should meanwhile launch a “targeted” communications campaign and adopt a “refreshed, transparent” approach to its planning, the CBI says.

Ministers are also urged to consider shortening the summer Parliamentary recess and curtailing party conferences to allow enough time to pass vital no-deal Brexit legislation.

Meanwhile the EU is told to “come to the table and commit” to matching the “sensible” planning already carried out by the UK.

‘DAMAGE’

The CBI’s deputy-director general Josh Hardie said: “Businesses are desperate to move beyond Brexit. They have huge belief in the UK and getting a deal will open many doors that have been closed by uncertainty.

“There is a fresh opportunity to show a new spirit of pragmatism and flexibility. Both sides are underprepared, so it’s in all our interests. It cannot be beyond the wit of the continent’s greatest negotiators to find a way through and agree a deal.

“But until this becomes a reality, all must prepare to leave without one. It’s time to review outdated technical notices; launch an ambitious communications campaign for every firm in the country and rigorously test all Government plans and IT systems.”

While the CBI is urging businesses and government to do all they can to prepare for a no-ldea, Mr Hardie warned that neither side of the negotiations could completely “mitigate” the disruption of Britain leaving without a deal.

“We can reduce but not remove the damage of no-deal,” he said.

“It’s not just about queues at ports; the invisible impact of severing services trade overnight would harm firms across the country.”

The CBI’s warning came as The Telegraph reported that Mr Johnson is planning to channel £100m into a no-deal spending advertising blitz over the next three months.

The push could include a leaflet on no-deal preparations being sent to every home in the country.

According to the paper, Chancellor Sajid Javid will unveil wider plans for an extra £1bn in no-deal prepartion spending later this week.

Mr Johnson has meanwhile set up a new “exit strategy committee” in Whitehall to lead on Brexit planning, The Times reports, with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove heading up a new “operations committee” that will meet daily and lead on no-deal work.

Written by: Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Source: Politics Home

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UK business optimism plummets

Growth expectations among UK businesses has fallen to 49%, from 69% last year

Among private businesses in the UK, optimism is rapidly diminishing, according to new research from PwC. It is falling at more than twice the rate of European counterparts.

PwC polled 2,400 organisations in 31 countries for its European Private Business Survey. Among the 220 UK firms, growth expectations fell to less than half, having been at 69% last year.

Although growth expectations among the other countries also fell, it was by only 8%, from 65% in 2018 to 57% now.

The survey also revealed that across Europe, businesses are facing a widening skills gap. In the UK, PwC estimates, the lack of appropriate skill costs an annual £29bn in lost revenue.

Brexit also remains a concern for businesses. Suzi Woolfson, PwC’s UK private business leader, pointed out that “until there is some certainty around it, businesses will continue to tread carefully.”

Woolfson also highlighted the possibilities that come from uncertainty, “those companies that are agile and flexible can benefit enormously”, she said.

Commenting on the skills shortage that the survey threw light on, she said, “Across Europe we are seeing a skills shortage becoming a significant issue for private businesses and in the UK, while companies say the problem is improving in comparison to last year, overall the impact is still significant”.

UK private businesses are more open than those in Europe to funding from private equity or venture capital for digitalisation, the survey found.

Woolfson said, “Our survey shows that UK private businesses recognise the importance of technology to their long term aspirations, which is why it is important to invest in technology and data to ensure real commercial improvements in systems and processes.

“With their ability to be nimble and decisive, private companies are well-placed to make strategic investments which can lead to substantial benefits”, she added.

By Frances Ball

Source: Economia

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UK business output growth falls for first time in 2019

UK business output growth has declined for the first time this year.

BDO’s Output Index, which measures UK business output growth, fell to 98.63 in April from 98.74 in March.

Business confidence also registered another decline in April, slipping by 0.36 points to 95.74 – the lowest level the index has been since 2012.

As the imminent threat of a no-deal Brexit was lifted last month, activity in the manufacturing sector is expected to diminish due to unprecedented levels of stockpiling tailing off.

BDO’s Manufacturing Output Index, which tracks output growth in the sector, declined to 97.27 in April. This marks a year-on-year decrease of 8.32 points and compares to its most recent high of 103.26 in September 2018.

In further gloomy news for the manufacturing industry, confidence has hit a 30-month low.

BDO’s Manufacturing Optimism Index, which shows how businesses expect output to develop in the next three to six months, declined to 101.09 in April from 103.73 in March. The index has not been this low since November 2016 and reflects concerns by manufacturers that they expect growth to moderate in the coming months.

Optimism in the UK’s services sector fell for a ninth consecutive month after it plummeted by 4.15 points in March. The index shows that optimism dropped to 95.06, just 0.06 points off negative territory. Despite the extension of Article 50 until October, businesses still don’t have the clarity they desperately need on the future long-term relationship the UK will have with the EU.

Peter Hemington, partner at BDO, said: “The only certainty businesses have at the moment is that the UK government still doesn’t know exactly how or when the UK will leave the European Union. We are seeing the impact of this confusion, with business confidence plummeting.

“An extension of Article 50 alone is insufficient to restore sentiment among businesses. In the coming months, the government should look at further policy interventions, such as increasing the Annual Investment Allowance, to help businesses invest and stimulate the UK economy.”

By Rachel Covill

Source: The Business Desk

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North ranked as number one UK region for business growth

THE north has been ranked as the number one UK region for business growth, according to a new report.

Research released by equity investor, BGF shows that 400 top performing companies in Northern Ireland have reported a combined £1.4 billion of turnover growth in the last three years.

The UK-wide analysis, which covers a total of 13,286 businesses, calculates growth through changes in turnover and employee size among private companies with revenues between £3m and £150m.

In the north, four in five (81 per cent) of the 400 firms within the classification increased their revenues over the last three years, the highest proportion in the UK.

Collectively, the local companies enjoyed turnover growth of 17 per cent since 2015, marginally above the UK average (15 per cent).

Suprisingly businesses in Co Derry experienced the UK’s highest combined turnover growth in the UK of 26 per cent over the past three years, with 84 per cent of the 45 businesses covered in the research reporting an increase.

The research further shows that over two thirds (71 per cent) of Northern Ireland businesses are actively hiring and have increasing their combined workforce by an average of 25 people per week (3,918 employees) over the past four years – the sharpest rate in the UK.

Paddy Graham, head of Northern Ireland at BGF said local businesses have prospered in spite of the clear challenges in front of them.

“Over the past three years, Northern Ireland businesses have faced a lot of uncertainty, with unresolved issues such as Brexit and the restoration of local government at Stormont undoubtedly having some impact on overall growth in the economy,” he said.

“But this research shows a group of businesses here which have not just grown strongly but have actually outstripped their peers in other regions of the UK. While the numbers of local businesses in our target range is relatively low compared to some other UK regions, it is hugely positive that so many of them are posting such robust financial numbers.”

Source: Irish News

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Brexit is wrecking Britain’s business reputation – Siemens UK head

Britain is wrecking its reputation for business stability with political divisions over Brexit and risks leaving the trading bloc with a hugely damaging “no-deal”, the UK head of German industrial giant Siemens has said.

After Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal was rejected by parliament for a third time last week there is pressure from rival factions for a no-deal exit, a much softer divorce or an election.

“Where the UK used to be beacon for stability, we are now becoming a laughing stock,” Juergen Maier said in open letter to lawmakers published by website Politico.

“It has been clear for weeks, that the only way that this will be resolved is through compromise between the government and parliament,” Maier said, calling for a softer Brexit.

Maier said it was becoming hard for him to win support from his board for investment decisions as Britain heads towards a “hugely damaging no-deal Brexit.”

“Enough is enough. We are all running out of patience. Make a decision and unite around a customs union compromise that delivers economic security and stability,” he said.

In year to September 2018, Siemens UK generated revenue of 5 billion pounds, the company’s website said. At the end of September 2018, the company had 15,000 employees in Britain.

Reporting by Elisabeth O’Leary. Editing by Jane Merriman

Source: UK Reuters

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Business confidence surges in East Midlands

Business confidence in the East Midlands surged by 15 points in March, according to new figures.

Confidence grew to 18 per cent, making it the second most confident region in the UK, according to the latest Business Barometer report from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

Companies in the region surveyed between 1 and 15 March 2019 reported higher levels of confidence in their own trading prospects, with a net balance of 29 per cent of firms expecting business activity to increase over the next 12 months, compared with 21 per cent last month.

Businesses economic optimism jumped 20 points to stand at seven per cent. When taken together, these two figures give an overall confidence of 18 per cent.

A growing number of companies are also looking to recruit new staff, with a net balance of 28 per cent planning to recruit over the next 12 months, compared with 10 per cent a month ago.

Across the UK, overall confidence climbed six points to 10 per cent as both firms’ optimism about the economy and confidence in their own prospects bounced back from February’s lows.

The Lloyds Bank Business Barometer questions 1,200 businesses monthly and provides early signals about UK economic trends both regionally and nationwide.

Amanda Dorel, regional director for the East Midlands at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “This month’s Business Barometer shows that East Midlands businesses are among the most confident in the whole of the UK.

“This reflects what we’re seeing first hand in the region, where ambitious and driven firms are continuing to invest, innovate and expand.

“We’re by the side of businesses across the East Midlands, and as part of our commitment to helping them succeed, we’ve pledged to lend up to £2.5bn to East Midlands businesses during 2019.”

By Jon Robinson

Source: Insider Media