Today has opened with news that is in tune with my expectations for 2017. This is my view that house price growth will slow and that it may also go negative. Such an event would make a change in the UK’s inflation dynamics as that would mean that official consumer inflation would exceed asset or house price inflation and of course would send a chill down the spine of the Bank of England. Here is the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.
The headline price growth gauge slipped from +7% to +1% (suggesting prices were unchanged over the period), representing the softest reading since early 2013.
The date will echo around the walls of the Bank of England as its house price push or Funding for Lending Scheme began in the summer of 2013. Also the immediate prospects look none too bright.
Looking ahead, near term price expectations continue to signal a flat trend over the coming three months at the headline level……..Going forward, respondents are not anticipating activity in the sales market to gain impetus at this point in time, with both three and twelve month expectations series virtually flat.
Actually flat lining on a national scale conceals that there are quite a few regional changes going on.
house prices remain quite firmly on an upward trend in some areas, led by Northern Ireland, the West Midlands and the South West. By way of contrast, prices continue to fall in London…….. the price balance for the South East of England fell further into negative territory, posting the weakest reading for this part of the country since 2011.
We see that price falls are spreading out from our leading indicator of London and wait to see how they ripple out. Northern Ireland is no doubt being influenced by the house price rises south of the border. A cautionary note is that this survey tends to be weighted towards higher house prices and hence London.
The Real Economy
Let us open with the good news which has come from this morning’s production figures.
In June 2017, total production was estimated to have increased by 0.5% compared with May 2017, due mainly to a rise of 4.1% in mining and quarrying as a result of higher oil and gas production.
It is hard not to have a wry smile at the fact that something that was supposed to be fading away has boosted the numbers! Of the 0.52% increase some 0.51% was due to it and as well as the impact of a lighter maintenance cycle there was some hopeful news.
In addition, use of the re-developed Schiehallion oil field and use of the new Kraken oil field are contributing to the increase in oil production. Both are expected to increase UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) production over the longer-term.
If we move to manufacturing then the position was flat as a pancake.
Manufacturing monthly growth was flat in June 2017.
However this concealed quite a shift in the detail as we already knew that there has been a slow down in car and vehicle production.
Transport equipment provided the largest downward contribution, falling by 3.6% due mainly to a 6.7% fall in the manufacture of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers.
This was mostly offset by increases in the chemical products and pharmaceutical sectors with some seeing quite a boom.
Chemical products provided the largest upward pressure, rising by 6.9% due mainly to an increase of 31.2% within industrial gases, inorganics and fertilisers.
If step back we see that over the past year there has been some growth but frankly not much.
Total production output for June 2017 compared with June 2016 increased by 0.3%, with manufacturing providing the largest upward contribution, increasing by 0.6%
There is an irony here as a good thing suddenly gets presented as a bad one and of course as ever the weather gets some blame.
energy supply partially offset the increase in total production, decreasing by 4.6% due largely to warmer temperatures.
If we look at other data sources we can say this does not really fit with the Markit PMI business surveys which have shown more manufacturing growth. It may be that they have been sent offside by the fact that the slowing has mostly been in one sector ( vehicles). If the CBI is any guide then the main summer months should be stronger.
Manufacturing firms reported that both their total and export order books had strengthened to multi-decade highs in June, according to the CBI’s latest Industrial Trends Survey.
The overall perspective is that the picture of something of a lost decade has been in play.
Since then, both production and manufacturing output have risen but remain well below their level reached in the pre-downturn gross domestic product (GDP) peak in Quarter 1 (January to March) 2008, by 7.8% and 4.4% respectively in the 3 months to June 2017.
One of the apparent certainties of life is that the UK will post an overall trade deficit and the beat remains the same.
Between Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2017 and Quarter 2 (Apr to June) 2017, the total trade deficit (goods and services) widened by £0.1 billion to £8.9 billion as increases in imports were closely matched by increases in exports.
So essentially the same as there is no way those numbers are accurate to £100 million. Even the UK establishment implicitly accept this.
The UK Statistics Authority suspended the National Statistics designation of UK trade on 14 November 2014.
If the problems were minor this would not be ongoing more than 2 years later would it? But if we go with what we have we see that as we stand the lower level for the UK Pound post the EU Leave vote has not made any significant impact.
In comparison with Quarter 1 and Quarter 2 of 2016, the total trade deficit over Quarter 1 and 2 of 2017 has been relatively stable.
This gets more fascinating when we note that prices and indeed inflation have certainly been on the move.
Sterling was 8.7% lower than a year ago, with UK goods export and import prices rising by 8.2% and 7.8% respectively over the period Quarter 2 2016 to Quarter 2 2017.
This is sadly yet another area where the numbers are “not a National Statistic” and I have written before that I lack confidence in them but for what it is worth they were disappointing.
Construction output fell both month-on-month and 3 month on 3 month, by 0.1% and 1.3% respectively.
This differs from the Markit PMI business survey which has shown growth.
We are finding that the summer of 2017 is rather a thin period for the UK economy. I do not mean the weaker trajectory for house prices because I feel that it is much more an example of inflation rather than the official view that it is economic growth. Yes existing owners do gain ( but mostly only if they sell) but first time buyers and those “trading up” lose.
Meanwhile our production sector is not far off static. So far the hoped for gains from a lower exchange rate have not arrived as we mull again J-Curve economics. Looking forwards there is some hope from the CBI survey for manufacturing in particular and maybe one day we can get it back to previous peaks. But we find ourselves yet again looking to a sector which appears to be on an inexorable march in terms of importance for the services sector dominates everything now and for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile there is plainly trouble at the UK Office for National Statistics as the rhetoric of data campuses meets a reality of two of today’s main data sets considered to be sub standard.
Me on Core Finance TV