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|IMPROVING SERVICE SECTOR Activity in the dominant services sector picked up more than expected in August as companies stepped up recruitment, putting the economy on trace for solid 0.4% growth in the third quarter. The sharp improvement in the sector, which accounts for the bulk of national output, was in contrast with disappointing manufacturing and construction figures. The purchasing managers index for services increased to 54.3 in August from 53.5 in July, beating all forecasts and rising further above the 50 mark that indicates growth.
CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY SLOWDOWN Activity in the construction industry cooled in August as housebuilders felt a "particularly sharp slowdown" and infrastructure projects dried up, according to a closely watched survey. The purchasing managers index for the construction sector fell to 52.9 in August from 55.8 in July. The reading was far below the 54.9 forecast by economists. The balance shows a sharp change from July, when the balance jumped to a 14 month high.
HOUSEBUILDING Housebuilding rose at at its weakest pace since March, while work on civil engineering projects fell for the first time in five months. Commercial building work was the best performing sector.
COMPANY DEBT HITS RECORD HIGH Debt levels among Britains listed companies have hit an all time high as they loaded up on credit to pay dividends and make investments during a period of weak profitability, according to research. Net debt jumped by £123 billion over the past three years as companies paid their shareholders £263 billion in dividends, despite profitability being squeezed, dividend cover levels fell to record lows in 2016/17, reported Link Asset Services.
HOUSE SALES DOWN The housing market in England and Wales has lost more than £1 billion in value in only a year as the sharp slow down in Londons housing market drags down the total. Its a first time since 2011 that the value has fallen, according to the Office for National Statistics. The figure is based on the total value of housing transactions over the year and so is driven by property prices and the number of sales. There were 884,329 transactions recorded in England and Wales in 2017, a drop of 3.8% from previous year and the lowest level since 2013, when transactions stood at 790,585.
CONSUMER BORROWING City analysts have warned that the economy is facing a "credit slump" after the amount that consumers borrowed on credit cards, overdrafts and car loans collapsed in March. The Bank of England said that high street lenders had provided £300 million of credit to consumers in March down from £1.7 billion the previous month and below the monthly average of £1.5 billion since December. The figure was the smallest since 2011 and pushed the annual growth rate in consumer credit down to 8.4% from 9.4% in February. Traders believe that the Bank of England will respond to the weak economic data by holding off raising interest rates next month.
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. 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.