LONDON (Reuters) – Britains economy grew more than expected in May, helped by rebounding car output after Brexit-related shutdowns, but the outlook remains fragile as a new prime minister prepares to take Britain out of the European Union.
FILE PHOTO: New Land Rover cars are seen in a parking lot at the Jaguar Land Rover plant at Halewood in Liverpool, northern England, September 12 , 2016. REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo
Overall output grew 0.3% after contracting by 0.4% in April, the Office for National Statistics said, stronger than all the forecasts in a Reuters poll, which had indicated growth of 0.1%.
The jump reflected a recovery in car production after a record drop in April, when factories brought forward their summer shutdowns to avoid disruption around the original March 29 Brexit deadline.
That deadline has now been pushed back to October, and both contenders to become prime minister have said they are prepared to take Britain out of the EU without a transition agreement if necessary, an alarming prospect for many employers.
Economists said Wednesdays data did not mark an upturn in the fortunes of the worlds fifth-biggest economy. Growth remained lacklustre in the dominant services sector.
“While all of this is ultimately a temporary phenomenon, the underlying growth story doesnt look a whole lot better,” ING economist James Smith said.
Financial markets were little moved by the data. Samuel Tombs, an economist with Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the slowdown was not enough to warrant an interest rate cut by the Bank of England, something investors have increasingly put their money on in recent weeks.
Worried about global trade tensions as well as Brexit, the BoE forecast last month there would be zero growth during the three months to June after 0.5% growth in the first quarter. Business surveys last week showed the economy lost momentum in June and might have shrunk in the second quarter of 2019.
“All of this suggests that overall second-quarter growth will come in flat, or possibly slightly negative,” Smith said.
The outlook for the second half of 2019 is clouded not only by the growing threat of a no-deal Brexit, but also the trade tensions between the United States, China and the European Union. As a financial hub, Britain is highly exposed to the ebb and flow of the global economy.
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