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Economics Weekly - Data to show faster pace of contraction in US and UK in Q4 2008

 Economics Weekly - 23 February 2009


Data to show faster pace of contraction in US and UK in Q4 2008

 

Revised estimates of GDP in the final quarter of 2008 for the US and UK are published this week, with both likely to lead to downward revisions to economic growth. The least uncertainty surrounds the US, which could show an annualised contraction of over 5% compared to a surprisingly ‘modest’ 3.8% decline in the preliminary estimate last month. In the UK, weaker than expected industrial output data suggest the economy contracted by 1.6% in Q4 2008 compared to 1.5% in the previous estimate. The first view of the expenditure breakdown will be keenly awaited. We also expect confirmation that the German economy contracted by 2.1% in Q4 2008. Recent indicators suggest large declines in GDP are again likely in the first quarter of 2009 for most economies, leading to a raft of official efforts to limit the impact on their struggling economies. We will hear more about these measures and the economic outlook from a series of central bank speakers this week, including Fed chairman Bernanke, ECB president Trichet and BoE governor King. Financial markets will also be influenced by corporate earnings updates and another heavy week of bond issuance in the US.

 

􀂄 Tight credit conditions and a sharp decline in business investment and consumer spending led UK real GDP to contract sharply in the final quarter of 2008, confirming the first recession since the early 1990s.The detail showed output fell sharply in both service and manufacturing sectors, with quarter-on quarter declines of a size not seen since the 1970s. However, a larger than expected contraction in manufacturing output in December and small downward revisions to previous months suggest that Q4 GDP growth may be revised down to -1.6% from -1.5% in the preliminary estimate, the biggest fall since Q2 1980. The expenditure components will also be published in the latest release. We expect to see another sharp fall in investment, led by slumping housing-related investment, while consumer spending is likely to have contracted more modestly. Prospects for consumer spending are difficult to assess, in part reflecting substantially lower interest rates and the reduction in VAT, however it is likely to remain weak until consumer sentiment improves. The outlook for the labour market and housing remain key uncertainties. The GfK publishes its consumer confidence index on Friday, with a further fall to -39 forecast in February, from -37 in January. With interest rates at record lows, we expect to see a further fall in future saving intentions and an associated rise in the climate for major purchases though rising unemployment will blunt this.

 

􀂄 The second estimate of US Q4 GDP is expected to lead to a sharp downward revision to economic growth, primarily based on the December trade figures which showed the inflation-adjusted deficit widened to $43.3bn from $40.1bn in November. We look for annualised GDP growth to be revised down to -5.2%, from -3.8% in the first estimate. Ahead of the GDP data, there are likely to be further weak readings from consumer confidence, the housing and labour market and durable goods orders, suggesting another sharp decline in economic growth is likely in Q1 2009. Fed chairman Bernanke’s semi-annual monetary policy testimony before the Senate Banking Committee will also be watched closely on Tuesday.

 

􀂄 Economic data from the euro zone this week are also expected to show that another sharp contraction in GDP growth is likely in the first quarter of 2009. Chart b shows the German IFO survey has been a particularly reliable indicator of overall growth prospects. We look for a fall in the headline index to 82.5 in February, from 83 in January, potentially the lowest reading in over 25 years. Business and consumer confidence indices for the region will also be watched closely this week. The first expenditure breakdown of German GDP in Q4 2008 will be published on Wednesday. We expect to see a very sharp decline in capital investment and exports.

Jeavon Lolay, Senior Economist, Corporate Markets

 

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