May’s election call was well-timed: the economy will soon run out of gas

First published: Prospectmagazine.co.uk, 24/04/2017

“The household savings rate has already slumped, consumer credit and instalment debt are rising, employment levels look maxed out, and real incomes are flat or falling”

In announcing the June General Election, the Prime Minister assured the nation that the economy is in good shape and in good hands. She cited in particular growth that was coming in above expectations, and high consumer confidence. The March retail sales data published last Friday will not make much of a dent in the government’s election narrative, but they do warn, from an economic perspective, that Theresa May has probably timed this election to perfection. Things can only get worse.

The retail sales data themselves are not conclusive. They measure only 30 per cent of total household consumption, which, in turn, makes up 60 per cent of GDP. What they showed was a 1.8 per cent fall in March, revealing the February rise of 1.7 per cent to be a blip after three consecutive monthly falls. The 1.4 per cent fall in the first quarter is the biggest since 2010, when there was one-off drop related to a rise in VAT. What they indicate is that the decline in Sterling that is pushing up in inflation (2.3 per cent in February and poised to climb still higher), is eating into low wage and salary increases, leaving real incomes flat or falling….Read more

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