By Mark Jones, director of Carmarthen-based Clay Shaw Butler chartered accountants and business consultants. The Money Matters column appears in the Pembrokeshire Herald, the Carmarthenshire Herald and the Llanelli Herald newspapers.By Mark Jones, director of Carmarthen-based Clay Shaw Butler chartered accountants and business consultants.
There’s no avoiding the dreaded ‘B’-word nowadays. Brexit issues are dominating the news headlines as the deadline approaches to Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Here at West Wales chartered accountants Clay Shaw Butler we have been keeping a weather eye on the latest consumer and business information from experts across the UK.
Surveys show that British consumers remain gloomy.
The GfK consumer confidence index held at Minus 14 in January, its lowest since July 2013.
Economists taking part in a Reuters news agency poll had expected a slight fall to Minus 15.
Businesses gave a sobering outlook in surveys published by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Lloyds Bank.
The GfK survey showed households’ assessment of their personal finances improved due to falling inflation and higher wages and employment.
But their outlook on the economy over the next 12 months was the weakest since December 2011.
“Consumers, companies and corporations thrive on certainty, which is in short supply just before the planned date for the UK’s EU exit,” GfK executive Joe Staton said.
Without a deal that is acceptable to both sides, Britain risks a disorderly exit from the EU on March 29.
The CBI said small businesses reported the sharpest decline in sentiment about exports since the financial crisis, despite above-average output growth in recent months.
“Uncertainty in the domestic and global trading environment is clearly hitting manufacturing SMEs hard, with sentiment falling, concerns over political and economic conditions abroad spiking and investment plans still well down on the past year,” CBI economist Alpesh Paleja said.
Political or economic conditions abroad were named as the biggest challenge to exports over the next three months since the survey began in 1988.
The latest survey by Lloyds Bank showed a small rise in business sentiment this month, after it hit its lowest since June 2016’s Brexit referendum in December.
Meanwhile, British house prices rose by just 0.1 percent in annual terms in January, their weakest increase in nearly six years, adding to signs of a slowdown in the country’s housing market ahead of Brexit.
Data from mortgage lender Nationwide showed the housing market’s loss of momentum reflected the unusually “uncertain economic outlook”.
But the Nationwide said that if the economy grew modestly, house prices on a national level would probably grow “at a slow single-digit pace” in 2019.
In monthly terms, prices rose by 0.3 percent.
Britain’s housing market has slowed since the Brexit referendum in June 2016 when Nationwide estimated house prices were rising by around 5 percent a year.
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