Latest BOE Agents Summary notes weaker retail sales, subdued HPI and modest labour cost growth

The Bank of England have published their latest Agents report 28 March

  • Robust growth in goods exports had tightened capacity and, together with improving profit margins,
    strengthened investment intentions in manufacturing slightly.
  • Recruitment difficulties remained a primary concern, though the impact on pay growth had been limited.
  • Some evidence of financial distress in retail and leisure, reflecting weak consumer spending growth.

Not sounding to me like an economy racing higher anywhere in a hurry but, hey, you make your own mind up. Meanwhile GBPUSD back up from 1.4135 lows but can’t breach 1.4180 so far. EURGBP 0.8753 from 0.8766 highs. GBPJPY 149.53 after finding support at 149.00

Says the summary:

  • Growth in retail sales values had slowed, reflecting weaker
    spending on white goods and homewares. This was potentially
    associated with subdued housing market activity, consumers
    bringing forward spending to the Black Friday sales in November,
    and the continued squeeze on household incomes.
  • Consumer services turnover growth had held up, though there
    were some signs of a slowdown in Q1, for example in casual dining.
  • Business services turnover growth had been modest but had
    strengthened, reflecting growth in demand for legal, accounting
    and advisory services, as well as work related to insolvency and
    restructuring which has picked up from a low base.
  • Domestic manufacturing output growth had eased slightly,
    though exporters continued to report strong growth, and demand
    from the EU had picked up.
  • Growth in construction output slowed further, with the overall
    level of activity little changed on a year earlier.
  • Investment intentions remained modest, but had picked up
    slightly among manufacturers, reflecting expansion to cope with
    strong export demand and investment in automation to relieve
    recruitment difficulties and improve productivity.
  • Overall growth in corporate credit demand remained subdued,
    reflecting a persistent aversion to gearing following the financial
    crisis. However, there was some demand among firms to borrow to
    facilitate growth and enhance efficiency.
  • In commercial real estate, capacity had tightened, reflecting a
    lack of properties coming onto the market combined with a
    modest rise in demand from investors. Across the UK, there
    continued to be appetite from foreign investors, most notably
    from Asia. In London, however, many institutional investors
    continued to view the market as overvalued, and were less active
    as a result.
    Housing market activity had remained subdued. Lack of stock in
    the secondary market was depressing demand by limiting choice
    for prospective buyers. However, demand for new‑build property
    was robust, supported by the Help To Buy scheme.
  • Mortgage
    was dominated by re-mortgaging deals as homeowners
    looked to lock‑in low fixed‑rate deals in anticipation of further
    interest rate rises.
    Capacity utilisation had increased slightly in manufacturing, and
    constraints were beginning to bite among exporters.
  • Capacity
    remained around normal in services.
    Employment intentions continued to point to modest headcount
  • Recruitment difficulties remained elevated and
    were a primary concern raised by many contacts.
    Growth in total labour costs remained modest, though average
    pay settlements this year were a little higher than in 2017 for many
    contacts, at between 2½% and 3½%.
  • Input cost inflation eased slightly and firms regarded the
    inflationary impact of sterling’s depreciation on input and
    imported finished goods costs as having largely peaked, except for
    in energy, where forward‑contracting meant there was further
    pass‑through to come. A survey on corporate pricing by the Agents
    showed that firms expected output price inflation to fall back this
    year as import price inflation eased
  • Consumer goods price inflation had eased but remained elevated,
    though contacts expected it to abate over the coming year,
    especially for imported goods such as clothing and cars, as the
    effect of sterling’s depreciation wanes. Consumer services firms
    had been able to implement small price rises in order to partially
    cover cost increases

Full report

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