Britain on the cusp of recession

Property developments are pictured in the City of London. Britain’s economy unexpectedly shrank in the second quarter of this year on Brexit turmoil, official data showed, placing the country on the verge of recession. (AFP)
Updated 11 August 2019

Britain on the cusp of recession

  • Dramatic slump in construction and manufacturing sectors blamed for fall in UK gross domestic product

LONDON: Britain’s economy unexpectedly shrank in the second quarter of the year on Brexit turmoil, official data showed, placing the country on the verge of recession and sending the pound tumbling to a 2.5-year low.
Gross domestic product (GDP) fell 0.2 percent in the April-June period, the first time the economy has contracted in almost seven years, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement, blaming a dramatic slump in the construction and manufacturing sectors.
The data, which was worse than market expectations for zero growth and also reflects global economic strains, sent the pound diving to $1.2056 — the lowest level since early 2017.
Another contraction in the current third quarter would put Britain in an official recession, ahead of the nation’s expected withdrawal from the EU at the end of October.
“The latest data reveal an economy in decline and skirting with recession as headwinds from slower global economic growth are exacerbated by Brexit-related paralysis,” said IHS Markit economist Chris Williamson.
The result contrasted with 0.5-percent expansion in the first quarter, when activity was boosted by companies stockpiling ahead of Brexit.
Output was buoyed in the first three months of 2019 because Britain had initially been scheduled to leave the EU at the end of March.
“GDP contracted in the second quarter for the first time since 2012 after robust growth in the first quarter,” said Rob Kent Smith, ONS head of GDP.
“Manufacturing output fell back after a strong start to the year, with production brought forward ahead of the UK’s original departure date from the EU.
“The construction sector also weakened after a buoyant beginning to the year, while the often-dominant service sector delivered virtually no growth at all,” he added.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson replaced Theresa May after winning the Conservatives’ leadership contest on a pledge to take Britain out of the bloc on Oct. 31 with or without a divorce deal.

The latest data reveal an economy in decline and skirting with recession as headwinds from slower global economic growth are exacerbated by Brexit-related paralysis

Chris Williamson, IHS Markit economist

Brexiteer Johnson, a pivotal “Leave” campaigner in the 2016 EU exit referendum, has repeatedly insisted that Britain can make an economic success of Brexit.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid on Friday said that the global economy was slowing, but highlighted other recent positive data for the UK.
“This is a challenging period across the global economy, with growth slowing in many countries,” said Javid.
“But the fundamentals of the British economy are strong — wages are growing, employment is at a record high and we’re forecast to grow faster than Germany, Italy and Japan this year,” he added.
“The government is determined to provide certainty to people and businesses on Brexit — that’s why we are clear that the UK is leaving the EU on Oct. 31.”
The government’s official forecaster last month warned that Britain would slide into a year-long recession should it leave the EU without a deal.
Bank of England Gov. Mark Carney recently warned that a no-deal Brexit could undermine entire sectors of the economy such as the car industry and farming.
“The latest look at the UK economy makes for pretty grim viewing,” XTB analyst David Cheetham said in reference to Friday’s data.
“Given the growing threat of a no-deal Brexit that looms menacingly overhead, it would not be at all surprising if the current quarter also shows a contraction — therefore meeting the standard definition of a recession.”
May stepped down after failing to get her EU-divorce deal through parliament and being forced to delay Brexit twice.


Rich Chinese outnumber wealthy Americans for first time

Updated 37 min 47 sec ago

Rich Chinese outnumber wealthy Americans for first time

ZURICH: The number of rich Chinese has surpassed the count of wealthy Americans for the first time as both countries keep churning out millionaires, a study by Credit Suisse showed.
The Swiss bank’s annual wealth survey released on Monday found 100 million Chinese ranked in the global top 10% as of the middle of this year versus 99 million in the United States.
“Despite the trade tension between the United States and China over the past 12 months, both countries have fared strongly in wealth creation, contributing $3.8 trillion and $1.9 trillion respectively,” said Nannette Hechler-Fayd’herbe, global head of economics and research at Credit Suisse.
The ranks of the world’s millionaires have risen by 1.1 million to an estimated 46.8 million, collectively owning $158.3 trillion in net assets, 44% of the global total, the study found.
The United States added more than half of this number –675,000 new millionaires – to its sizeable stock.
A decline in average wealth in Australia — largely due to exchange rates — resulted in 124,000 fewer millionaires there, while Britain lost 27,000 and Turkey 24,000.
The report estimates that 55,920 adults are worth at least $100 million and 4,830 have net assets above $500 million.
It forecast global wealth — which increased 2.6% over the past year — would rise by 27% over the next five years to $459 trillion by 2024. The number of millionaires would also grow over this period to almost 63 million.
The share of the world’s bottom 90% accounts for 18% of global wealth, compared to 11% in the 2000.
“While it is too early to say wealth inequality is now in a downward phase, the prevailing evidence suggests that 2016 may have been the peak for the near future,” it said.