BUSINESS RECORDER : “Recession Threatened Britain Awaits Key Growth Data”

Currencies Direct April 24th 2012 - 2 minute read

BUSINESS RECORDER : “Recession Threatened Britain Awaits Key Growth Data”

LONDON: Britain on Wednesday finds out whether it is officially back in recession, or if the non-eurozone member has avoided a fresh downturn amid severe cuts to state spending and spreading debt tensions.

All will be revealed when the Office for National Statistics publishes its first official estimate of British gross domestic product (GDP) for the three months to the end of March.

Britain's economy shrank by a worse-than-expected 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter of last year and a further contraction would put the country back in recession, which is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

However, market expectations are for slender growth of 0.1 percent, after a raft of recent encouraging economic data.

"The main concern from the first-quarter UK GDP figure is whether or not the UK will slip back into a technical recession," said Phil McHugh, senior analyst at Currencies Direct.

"Recent opinion has shifted on the back of strong retail sales and lower unemployment figures, there is a real possibility that we could experience a second consecutive quarter of negative growth."

British retail sales volumes rebounded by a strong 1.8 percent in March from the previous month as unusually warm weather boosted demand for clothes and gardening gear, official data showed last week.

Panic buying of petrol, caused by a threatened strike by fuel tanker workers, also helped retail sales climb last month by the fastest pace since January 2011.

In another positive development ahead of Wednesday's GDP data, recent official figures showed that the number of jobless Britons fell in the three months to February, marking the first quarterly decline in almost a year.

The number of unemployed fell by 35,000 over the period to 2.65 million people. That was the first quarterly decline since the three months to May 2011.

However, economist Howard Archer warned that anaemic activity in the construction sector could push Britain back into recession.

"There is serious concern that reported very weak construction output will have been a major drag on the economy and resulted in a second (consecutive) quarter of GDP contraction, thereby officially putting the economy back into recession," said Archer, a leading economist at IHS Global Insight consultants.

Economic stormclouds are still also looming large over the eurozone, which is a key trading partner for Britain.

Data on Monday showed that debt-ravaged Spain slumped back into recession in the first three months of 2012.

Scarred by soaring public debt and surging unemployment, the eurozone member's economy contracted by 0.4 percent in the first quarter after a 0.3-percent decline in the last three months of 2011.

Overall, the 17-nation eurozone's output shrank by 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.







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