One in three FDs now expect a UK double-dip

With estimates of Q2 growth looking increasingly grim, it's no wonder that FTSE finance directors are feeling gloomy...

by James Taylor
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
Here's a nice cheery start to the week: according to a new survey by Deloitte, about a third of the 131 FTSE 250 finance directors polled now believe the UK economy will slip back into recession in the coming year. Although those businesses with a strong international footprint remain reasonably confident, those that are largely focused on the UK market are cutting back in the face of shrinking consumer spending. So - time for the Government to get more radical in its growth strategy, as the British Chambers of Commerce argues?

The latest survey data suggests that the Government’s efforts to rebalance the economy in favour of exports are not really having the desired effect; indeed, a report from accountancy BDO suggests that confidence in the manufacturing sector is now at a two-year low (not surprising, given that we're not exactly the only ones with problems). Meanwhile, consumers are clearly reluctant to part with their hard-earned cash here at home - which, according to Deloitte, is encouraging FDs to cut costs and manage their cashflow more tightly.

The official GDP figures aren't out until the end of the month, but it looks increasingly unlikely we'll get anywhere near the 0.8% growth needed to keep us on track to hit the Office for Budget Responsibility's (already thrice-downgraded) 2011 forecast; in fact, analysts at Citigroup reckon the economy may even have contracted by 0.2% during the period. So it's hardly surprising that big companies are short on confidence.

The BCC's latest quarterly report isn't a lot more positive on that front - its survey of members suggested confidence remains weak (albeit slightly up on the first quarter). The business group continues to back the Government's austerity measures - 'Business... has rejected calls for a plan B', it said today - but thinks that it needs to 'move beyond the rhetoric of growth, and introduce radical reforms' to help the private sector 'increase productivity and drive the recovery forward'. It also called on the Bank of England to hold fire on interest rate hikes for the foreseeable future.

There's clearly a danger of a vicious circle developing here: bad economic data makes companies more reluctant to invest and consumers less willing to spend, which makes the situation even worse. The BCC may have a point: unless the Government can do something radical to change the narrative, the odds on a double-dip are only going to get shorter.

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