Business

Straws of hope from GDP

  • 25 January 2013
  • From the section Business
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Anyone who still wants to be optimistic about the UK economy after today has two important facts to cling to.

The first is that these early estimates are likely to be revised - and at least some in the city think the revision is more likely to take the number up than down. Regular readers will be thrilled that our old friend, the construction sector, is in the frame again - the sharp fall in output in this sector in December is very much an estimate, which some consider a little fishy.

The second point of potential hope is that these numbers deal with the past. They do not necessarily tell us much about the future.

Taking away the one-off boost from the Olympics, the figures suggest that the UK economy was broadly flat in the second half of the year.

There have been mixed signals from the real economy in recent weeks, but few in the City are now predicting a dramatic downward lurch. The broad sense is of an economy that is treading water - not one that is about to drown.

A second consecutive quarter of falling output is possible - the much talked about triple dip. But as the Bank of England governor has pointed out recently, that is quite likely in an economy that is broadly flat.

The IMF expects Britain's national output to be 1% larger at the end of this year than at the start, and to grow by 2% in 2014.

Even that would barely take the country back to where it was at the start of 2008. But it is faster than any major economy across the Channel - the eurozone is collectively expected to shrink in 2013, with little or no growth even in 2014.