Economy's Glorious Summer Makes Way for Average Autumn; ECONOMIC ANALYSIS

The Evening Standard (London, England), October 10, 2013 | Go to article overview

Economy's Glorious Summer Makes Way for Average Autumn; ECONOMIC ANALYSIS


Byline: Russell Lynch

WHEN the UK has stood out among its international peers in recent years it's usually been for the wrong reasons, such as spiralling borrowing or a lagging recovery.

So the Chancellor made the most of some rare cheer this week from the IMF, whose 0.5 percentage point upgrade for our growth prospects this year makes us the fastest improver of any nation in the world. A shame then that less than 24 hours later the run of blinding economic news should come to a halt with a shocking manufacturing performance in August and poor trade figures showing our goods trade gap with the rest of the world lingering at [pounds sterling]9.6 billion.

The slippage in the data after a stunning summer and George Osborne's slightly premature "mission accomplished" speech may well turn out to be temporary, but it is a timely reminder of the challenges we still face in getting this recovery off the ground. As Bank of England Governor Mark Carney might put it, the UK picture is improving but "escape velocity" is still some distance away. And the current picture of growth households digging into savings to spend and car sales reaching a five-year high thanks to improved financing conditions is less pleasing when set against ambitions for a rebalancing based on trade and investment.

Next chief executive Simon Wolfson, pictured and a Conservative peer no less put his finger on it a few weeks ago when he raised doubts over the sustainability of a recovery based on frothing house prices and an improvement in consumer credit.

Household spending might flatter the growth figures for a quarter or two but will eventually flag while wages are running behind inflation as we can't dig into our savings indefinitely. …

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