Property prices hold the fort for stuttering economy

The sun is shining, the birds are singing and the breeze is blowing in the UK as we enter into the summer season and begin to enjoy sunshine that always feels a million miles away after a long winter. Not just the time of year for most people to have their mind firmly on the beach as they count down the days to their summer holiday, but for those in the business world it’s also a good time to sit back and take stock of the first half performance for this year’s economic health.

Property prices hold the fort for stuttering economy

So far this week the news has been far from positive and, actually, quite grim. Consumer confidence, productivity, currency and all manner of other economic indicators are starting to point towards a tough 12 months ahead. It could be argued that this is becoming quite obvious to the British public as YouGov on Sunday announced that Labour had slashed the Conservatives poll lead to just 5 points, whilst Jeremy Corbyn has enjoyed a huge surge in his personal approval ratings.

Consumer confidence has slipped

Consumer confidence has slipped to its worst levels since July 2016, the month after the UK voted for Brexit, a survey for YouGov has revealed. It fell 0.2 points from the previous month to 107.9 - its lowest since July 2016.

Although a score over 100 indicates a positive outlook, the index - produced from YouGov and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) data - has yet to recover to pre-referendum levels.

Expectations for household finances over the next 12 months also fell, while workers’ perception of job security also dropped to its lowest level since April 2013.

Economy grew just 0.2% in first quarter

Following on from poor consumer index figures, statistics released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that the economy grew by a relatively poor 0.2% from January to March of this year.

According to Sky News, The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the dominant services sector - which represents more than three quarters of output - had been weaker than anticipated. It follows growth of 0.7% in the fourth quarter of 2016 and means that the UK’s growth slowdown - partly driven by rising inflation - is worse than first thought.

The ONS pointed to declines for consumer-facing industries such as retail and hotels and a slowdown in household spending, as well as weak growth for construction and manufacturing.

Saving rates dropped

As well as the poor headline figures, there are indicators that personal wealth for UK residents is slipping with the British Banking Association (BBA) reporting that families rate of saving dropped to its worst level since 2011.

Quoted in the same report as the GDP figures, Sky revealed that the amount of personal deposits made into high street bank accounts grew by just 2.7% last month compared to the same period of 2016, which is the lowest annual increase in six years. The rate of growth equalled a £1.5bn rise in savings, as opposed to the £2.1bn increase registered for April last year and with interest rates at historic lows; many of those who do choose to deposit their extra income are also seeing almost no return on their money. At the same time personal borrowing rates have also risen, driven by a jump in credit card debt.

Property remains strong

Consumer confidence and homeowner confidence all remained strong with the majority confident that house prices will continue to rise and off-plan property is still a strong investment.

The North West and Northern England in particular have seen strong growth in juxtaposition to the struggling wider economy with City AM reporting that Manchester registered the fastest rate of growth at 8.4 per cent in April, up from 6.3 per cent a year ago. Cities across the Midlands enjoyed robust growth including Leicester (7.7 per cent), Birmingham (7.7 per cent) and Nottingham (7.2 per cent). Meanwhile, cities in southern England such as Bristol, Cambridge, and Oxford have all seen the rate of growth slow from double to single digits over the last year.

Halifax also reported this week that flat prices, with off-plan in mind, have risen 50% in value since 2009 meaning that the majority have seen prices rise an average £1,008 per month from £159,292 in Q4 2009 to £243,936 in Q4 2016.

Weak Sterling has also meant an extravaganza from foreign investors who are able to not only buy rock solid investments in the UK market but also receive even more value for money with the weak exchange rate.

As the economy struggles through the summer we will surely see, as is so often the case, property prices, rentals and yields propping up an otherwise uncertain economic landscape.

Manchester Guide vertical - April 2019

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