UK economy slows as global worries, Brexit weighs on factories

Britain’s economy has slowed after the June 2016 Brexit vote. (AFP)
Updated 11 January 2019
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UK economy slows as global worries, Brexit weighs on factories

  • Gross domestic product was 0.3 percent higher than in the previous three-month period
  • Prime Minister Theresa May risks losing a parliamentary vote on Tuesday on the deal she has agreed with the EU

LONDON: Britain’s economy grew at its weakest pace in half a year in the three months to November as factories suffered from tough global trade conditions and the approach of Brexit, official data showed on Friday.
Gross domestic product was 0.3 percent higher than in the previous three-month period, down from growth of 0.4 percent in the three months to October and matching the consensus of a Reuters poll of economists.
Manufacturers suffered their longest period of monthly declines in output since the financial crisis, hurt by weaker overseas demand, the Office for National Statistics said.
Looking at November alone, industrial output dropped 1.5 percent on the year — the biggest fall since August 2013.
Worries about the global economy have been mounting due to concerns about a trade war between the United States and China.
Figures from Germany and France earlier this week also showed falling industrial output.
“There may well be a common theme which is hurting the factory sector throughout Europe, for example changes in the auto industry,” Investec chief economist Philip Shaw said, adding that Brexit worries were also weighing on investment.
Carmakers across Europe have suffered from a fall in demand for diesel vehicles due to pollution concerns.
Sterling and British government bonds were little changed by Friday’s figures.
The figures fit with business and consumer surveys that suggest the economy is slowing sharply after robust growth of 0.6 percent in the third quarter of the year, reflecting growing uncertainty ahead of Brexit, as well as global jitters.
Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29 and whether businesses will still be able to trade without disruption to cross-border supply chains remains unclear.
Prime Minister Theresa May risks losing a parliamentary vote on Tuesday on the deal she has agreed with the EU.
Defeat would leave open the prospect of Britain leaving the EU without any transitional arrangements to smooth the economic shock.
Compared with a year earlier, Britain’s economy was 1.4 percent larger. In November alone, it expanded 0.2 percent, compared with forecasts for a rise of 0.1 percent.
The Bank of England says the economy is likely to have grown around 0.2 percent over the fourth quarter of 2018.
Closely watched purchasing managers’ surveys have pointed to fourth-quarter growth of around 0.1 percent in Britain, according to data firm IHS Markit which compiles the surveys.
Britain’s economy slowed after the June 2016 Brexit vote, its growth rate slipping from top spot among the Group of Seven group of rich nations to mid-table or lower.
An unusually warm summer and the soccer World Cup spurred a pick-up in mid-2018 but retail sales data suggest consumers reined in spending late last year.
Britain’s services sector grew by 0.3 percent over the three months to November, while industrial output dropped by 0.8 percent, the biggest decline since May 2017.
Separate figures showed Britain’s goods trade deficit widened unexpectedly in November to £12 billion ($15.3 billion) from £11.9 billion, worsened by the highest oil imports since September 2014.


UAE passenger jet makes long haul journey on locally produced biofuel

Updated 17 January 2019
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UAE passenger jet makes long haul journey on locally produced biofuel

  • The biofuel was produced from plants grown in a local saltwater ecosystem in Abu Dhabi
  • It can be refined using existing infrastructure and used with current engines and airport fueling systems

DUBAI: Etihad Airways flew the first commercial flight powered by locally produced sustainable fuel Wednesday, Emirati airlines Etihad Airways reported on their website from an announcement by the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC).

The Boeing 787, flying from Abu Dhabi to Amsterdam, used biofuel produced from the oil of Salicornia plants, which are grown in the Seawater Energy and Agriculture System (SEAS), in Masdar City near the UAE capital - Abu Dhabi.

The SEAS project is the world’s first desert ecosystem made specially to produce fuel and food in saltwater.

While Etihad is not the first airline to use biofuel in its aircraft, it is the first time in the UAE for the source of the biofuel to be grown and produced in the country.

“Etihad’s flight proves SEAS is a game-changer that can substantially benefit air transport and the world,” said Vice President of strategy and market development for Boeing International Sean Schwinn.

“The research and technology being developed shows significant promise to transform coastal deserts into productive farmland supporting food security and cleaner skies.”

The biofuel can be produced using existing refinery facilities, it can be blended with regular jet fuel, and used with existing aircraft, engines and airport fueling delivery systems

Biofuels were introduced for commercial flight use in 2011.

Since then nearly 160,000 passengers have flown on flights powered by a blend of sustainable and traditional jet fuels.

The water used for the SEAS project is drawn from fish and shrimp farmeries that produce food for the UAE.

The system is expected to expand to cover 2 mln square meters over the course of the next few years.