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Economics Weekly - UK budget deficit set to undershoot Chancellor’s forecast

Economics Weekly - 15 March 2010

 

UK budget deficit set to undershoot Chancellor’s forecast

 

Recent UK economic data have painted a mixed picture, with the sharp fall in manufacturing production and exports in January contradicted by strong improvements in some of the business surveys – notably, the latest manufacturing and services sector PMIs. This week’s reports should hopefully bring a little more clarity, with the latest labour market, money supply and public sector borrowing data all due. The latter will attract particular attention ahead of the 24 March Budget. Public sector net borrowing is forecast to have jumped to £13.5bn in February, taking total net borrowing in the fiscal year to date to £136bn. With only the March figures to come, there is a good chance the FY09-10 budget deficit will undershoot the Chancellor’s Pre-Budget projection of £178bn by around £15bn. While not much in the scheme of things, it should provide the Chancellor with some welcome wiggle room ahead of the General Election.

 

Elsewhere, the fragility of the UK labour market is expected to be underscored by a further rise in unemployment in February. In January, claimant unemployment unexpectedly jumped by 23.5k, taking the jobless total to its highest for almost thirteen years. We expect a further, albeit more modest, rise of 9k. Meanwhile, the latest broad money supply figures are likely to show that the road to recovery remains a slow one, with annual M4 growth forecast to have dropped from 4.9% to 4.5% last month. Also, this week sees the release of the minutes of the latest MPC meeting. Although we expect the Committee to have voted unanimously to keep both Bank rate and the size of the APF unchanged, there is scope for one or two dissents given the recent mixed economic data.

 

In the US, the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee this week is likely to reiterate that interest rates will remain low for an ‘extended period’, given that the economic recovery is in its early stages and remains fragile. However, signs of continued improvements in the economy and financial markets led FOMC member Thomas Hoenig to vote against keeping the ‘extended period’ phrase at the last FOMC meeting in January. There is a risk in this week’s meeting that Mr. Hoenig may no longer be the lone dissenter, given better-than-expected labour market data. Nevertheless, the majority of FOMC members are likely to vote to retain the phrase, possibly until the middle of the year, in anticipation of the start of policy tightening towards year-end. The timing, however, will depend on whether the economic recovery evolves in line with current expectations.

 

This week sees the release of industrial production for February and more forward looking

Philadelphia Fed and Empire business surveys. CPI and PPI inflation data will also attract attention, as will housing activity statistics, including housing starts/permits and the NAHB housing market index. Overall, despite gradually improving economic prospects, the underlying inflation picture is likely to remain subdued, while housing market activity remains supported by government stimulus measures.

 

Euro-zone government bond markets continue to digest Greece’s recent bond issue and fiscal austerity package. But an underlying nervousness remains and the 10-year Greek yield spread over equivalent German bunds has still not broken decisively below 300bp. With the intellectual debate over a prospective European Monetary Fund now heating up, time will tell whether Greece’s measures are sufficient to ward off future problems. This week’s key euro-zone economic data releases include Germany’s ZEW economic sentiment survey for March where, notwithstanding recent uncertainty surrounding Greece, we look for an outturn of 46.0 as equity markets registered gains early in the month. Elsewhere, final CPI data are published for the euro-zone. We look for an unrevised reading of 0.9% in the year to February, following the earlier ‘flash’ estimate.

Adam Chester, Mark Miller, Hann-Ju Ho

 

Economic Research,
Lloyds TSB Corporate
Markets,
10 Gresham Street,
London EC2V 7AE
,
Switchboard:
0207 626 - 1500
www.lloydstsb.com/corporatemarkets

 

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