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|RETAIL SALES BOUNCE BACK Consumers were more willing to open their wallets in February, with retail sales bouncing back after two months of declines, according to official figures. Retail sales volumes rose 0.8% in February compared with January, according to the Office for National Statistics.This beat economists forecast of a 0.4% rise and was driven by a rise in spending on supermarkets, petrol and online shopping.Retails spending makes up about 20% of the economy and is considered a key indicator of how comfortable consumers are with personal finance.
HOUSEBUILDING There was a 16% rise in the number of new homes built in 2017, as the output of housebuilders reached levels last seen in the boom tears before the financial crash a decade ago. Government figures show that 163,250 homes were completed in the year to December, compared with 140,850 the year before. The number of "starts", which is when a housebuilder lays down the foundation of a home, also rose 5% to 162,180.
HIRING CONFIDENCE Hiring confidence among British companies has reached its highest level in more than a year and recruitment is set to pick up as businesses shrug off downbeat economic projections, according to a closely watched study. Manpowers quarterly survey recorded that net optimism had climbed to +6% in the latest quarter. "Against a backdrop of turmoil in the global markets and continuoing national uncertainty, the rise in the national outlook to its strongest level in over a year has confounded expectations" James Hick, managing director for Manpowergroup Solutions, said. INFLATION The squeeze on households may be easing after official figures showed that inflation fell to a seven-month low in February. The consumer price index, which is the headline measure of inflation in Britain, fell to 2.7%, down from 3% in December and January, to reach the lowest rate since July last year. The Office for National Statistics said that the fall was primarily driven down by petrol prices dropping and by the cost of food rising less slowly than last year.
INTEREST RATE RISE The strength of the global economy and signs of a pick-up in wage growth in Britain have bolstered the case for higher interest rates, a policymaker at the Bank of England has said. Gertjan Vlieghe, a former economist for Brevan Howard,the hedge fund, added that the rapid growth in consumer debt also showed that households were willing to borrow and spend, rather than cut back on debt, suggesting that the economy was "ready for somewhat higher interest rates"
WIDENING SKILLS GAP Companies are facing skill shortages at critical levels that will restrain economic activity this year unless the issue is addressed, a leading business lobby group has warned.Concerns about recruitment have been mounting as unemployment fails to a 42 year low of 4.3%. Companies that recruit much of their their skilled workforce from overseas fear that the UKs departure from the European Union will make the process harder.
. RISE IN RETAILERS GOING BUST The number of retailers going into administration has risen for the first time time in five years as falling consumer confidence and rising costs take their toll on businesses.Figures compiled by Deloitte show that 118 retailers became insolvent last year, a 28% increase on 2016 when 92 firms filed for administration.
500,000 UK BUSINESSES IN DISTRESS Nearly half a million British businesses are in "significant financial distress" in what Begbies Traynor described as the calm before the storm. The number of businesses experiencing financial distress had reached "unprecedented" levels over the past 12 months. Many had "overstretched themselves" taking too many risks after being lulled into a false scene of security by the continued low interest rate environment. There were 448,011 businesses across the UK suffering significant financial distress between July and September, an increase of 27% compared with the same period last year, it said. Begbies Traynor defines businesses as having "significant" financial problems if they have minor county court judgments recorded against them, a sign they are struggling to pay bills.