Mixed messages on the UK’s economy In its March revised estimate of economic growth, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that in the last quarter of 2014 it grew by 0.6%. This is an improvement on the 0.5% previously estimated. As a result of this unexpected improvement, the ONS also raised its annual estimate to 2.8%, again an improvement on its previous forecast of 2.6%. At this level the UK economy has recorded its highest rate of annual growth seen since 2006, when Gross Domestic Product (GDP) reached 3%. The biggest factor behind this increase was, encouragingly, a marked improvement in the country’s exports. Other areas of improvement was an expansion in production, services and, given a simultaneous rise in average wages over the period, household spending. GDP per capita is now 4.8% higher than at the time of the last election in 2010, however it is still 1.2% below its peak, achieved in early 2008, just prior to the start of the ‘Great Recession’. The Government’s independent financial watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has left their forecast for the economic outcome of 2015 at 2.5%, but many economists and analyst, such as Ernst & Young’s ITEM club, which also uses the UK Treasury’s economic model, believe this to be a cautious figure, as some believe 2015 will see the economy grow by 3%. However, in late April the ONS released figures for the first quarter of 2015, which showed a slowing down in the rate of economic growth to 0.3%, as growth of 0.5% in the services sector was offset by a 1.6% fall in the construction sector. The ONS did add that the economy was still 2.4% larger than the same period a year earlier.
Markets (April) (Data supplied by the Outsourced Marketing Department) Global equity markets had a good month across the board in April, with the FTSE100 gaining 187.6 points in the month to end 2.77% up. Whilst it managed to attain three new all-time highs in the period, touching 7,104.0 at one point, it fell off towards the month end to finish at 6,960.6, just over 2% off its peak. The wider FTSE250 also gained 2.25%, to close April at 17,474.63 and the junior AIM market rose to 753.27 to record a 5.18% improvement. Concern over the slowing of the US economy dented the Dow Jones index, as it ended at 17,840.52, for a modest improvement in the month of 0.36%. Nasdaq, the technology based market, also struggled, gaining only 0.83% in April to end at 4,941.42. The Eurozone market lost some of its recent vitality, slipping 2.17% as the Eurostoxx50 closed out the month off 80 points at 3,617.11. The continuing bull-run in Japan saw the Nikkei225 index rise to 19,520.01, a gain of 1.63% for the month and to record an impressive rise of 11.85% since the beginning of 2015. On the foreign exchange markets, the Euro currency regained some momentum against the greenback, finishing at $1.13, an improvement of 5.51%. Sterling also improved against the US Dollar ending April at $1.54, to record a 4.05% gain. Against the Euro, Sterling slipped a fraction to €1.37, a marginal fall of 0.72%. The oil price, as measured by the Brent Crude benchmark, recovered to $66.75 a barrel, a gain of nearly 21% on the month and recording an improvement in price of 16.43% since the turn of the year. Gold bullion remained out of favour in April, closing the month at $1,183.84 an ounce, little changed on the month and down 7.1% for the year so far. Download full report here

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