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British small business lending has remained stagnant and the construction sector shrank again, data shows, reinforcing a downbeat outlook for growth as the Bank of England starts its two-day policy meeting.
Sharp falls in construction output were largely responsible for the economy shrinking in late 2011 and early 2012, and threaten to tip Britain back into recession. However the central bank has been split for the past two months over whether the right response is to restart its purchases of government bonds, or try other measures.
Wednesday’s data is unlikely to shift the debate too far, but shows the challenges facing the monetary policy committee. The Markit/Cips construction data was weaker than expected as cold weather hit demand. The monthly survey of purchasing managers rose to 47.2 in March from 46.8, suggesting the sector contracted again, but not as sharply as in February.
Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight said “it seems highly probable that the sector suffered renewed and appreciable contraction in the first quarter of 2013 after all-too-rare expansion in the fourth quarter of 2012”. (more…)
A total of 51,653 homebuyer loans were approved during the month, down from 54,187 in January and below the previous six-month average of 52,395. The value of those approvals was also down, at a total of £7.7bn, against £8.1bn in January.
The fall in loans for homebuyers comes despite lenders’ hints earlier in the year that they were prepared to advance more mortgages in 2013, and despite the government’s attempts to kickstart the market with the launch of its Funding for Lending scheme last August.
A range of factors have driven down remortgage activity in recent years:, with lenders’ low standard variable rates, borrowers with low amounts or no equity, and falling house prices, all contributing to the low number of switchers.
The bank’s gross lending figures showed a £0.9bn rise in loans secured on dwellings, compared with an average monthly increase of £0.4bn over the previous six months. Gross lending hit £12.8bn in February, and was not quite offset by £12.6bn in mortgage repayments.
Despite the dip in mortgage approvals, Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight, said there were signs that housing market activity “has firmed modestly overall in recent months, but remains far from racing ahead“. (more…)
This is the biggest ever reorganisation of the NHS system and it is necessary to keep improving care and the way things work. The commissioning organisations’ clinical expertise will be a huge asset and the NHS needs to take full advantage of it.
The reforms aim to:
- put patients at the centre of the NHS
- create a focus on quality and improving outcomes
- strengthen clinical leadership, particularly of commissioning
- create a shift from NHS provided to NHS-funded care
- provide greater plurality of provision and competitive market place
- put the emphasis on local decision making
- focus on improving accountability of the NHS
- shift responsibility for public health to local authorities.
The system might be new but it still faces same challenges, coping with financial pressures, improving the quality of care and restoring public confidence in the services that people use and the staff that provide them. (more…)
The Office for National Statistics said service output rose 0.3% in January from December, its best performance since August. On a year-on-year basis, output was up 0.8.
The data, which feeds into the ONS’ calculation of gross domestic product, offers an early glimpse of how the biggest sector of Britain’s economy fared in the first quarter.
Previously released data has shown manufacturing output fell in January at the fastest pace since June, heightening fears that the economy made a weak start to the year.
Britain’s economy contracted in the last quarter of 2012 and may be in its third recession in less than five years.
Services make up more than three quarters of British GDP and economists were awaiting Thursday’s index to get a better sense of whether the country would escape a new recession. Helping services in January was activity in the transport, storage and communications sector as well as in business services and finance. (more…)
House prices rose 0.3% from February, the biggest increase since March 2010, according to a survey by Hometrack, a property analysis firm.
In year-on-year terms house prices were flat, the first time they have not fallen since September 2010.
Britain’s housing market has been given a boost by the launch last year of the Funding for Lending Scheme under which the Bank of England provides banks with cheap funding to increase loans for homebuyers and businesses.
Last week, Chancellor George Osborne announced further measures, including government guarantees for up to 130 billion pounds’ worth of mortgages.
In London, prices jumped 0.7% in March from February and in the rest of England and Wales they rose in a fifth of postcode areas, the highest percentage for three years, according to Hometrack’s survey. (more…)
The NHS has experienced numerous attempts to free staff from the shackles of unnecessary paperwork to allow more time for patient care. These efforts have seemed little more than pruning projects − bureaucracy is cut back for a short period before it grows back thicker and stronger the next year. In the wake of Mid Staffs, public and political desire for greater external assurance is growing. The NHS is under pressure to improve the quality of patient care, restore public confidence and be open and accountable. With a raft of new NHS organisations due to come into force on 1 April we risk increasing the bureaucratic and regulatory burden even further.
A smarter system of information use is needed, not a bigger one; a digital NHS, not a paper-based archaic NHS. Mid Staffs revealed the difficulties the NHS faces. There was a difference between the experience of patients and the perspective the regulators held about the quality of care. Some of this was about regulators not having real-time data (which can easily be solved by adopting Infomatrix OneView’s Infohealth solution), some was about the way data was distributed across a number of regulators and inspectors. (more…)
Deficit reduction is the central economic policy of Britain’s Conservative-led coalition government, which came to power in May 2010 when Britain’s budget deficit was more than 11% of annual economic output – one of the highest for a major economy.
The government’s budget plans have been plagued by weak growth, but retail sales figures released at the same time as the borrowing figures suggested at least some temporary relief after a dismal January for retailers.
The government’s preferred measure of Britain’s public borrowing, which strips out some of the effects of its bank bailouts, showed a deficit of just 2.756 billion pounds in February, the Office for National Statistics said on Thursday.
This is roughly a quarter of the 11.756 billion seen in February 2012 and far below analyst forecasts of deficit of 8.45 billion pounds. (more…)
Chancellor George Osborne said Britain would commit 3.5 billion pounds over the next three years to shared equity loans for new-build homes worth less than 600,000 pounds, allowing buyers to purchase them with a 5 percent deposit. This loan would be interest-free for five years and the scheme open to all buyers.
The government will also guarantee 130 billion pounds of mortgages from 2014 for three years, allowing banks to provide more loans to people without big deposits.
Britain’s housing market has been stuck in the doldrums for years, due to a combination of high prices, stagnant incomes and a banking sector that the financial crisis has made reluctant to hand out mortgages. This new scheme will give a much-needed helping had to thousands of existing homeowners.
Jefferies analyst Anthony Codling said the shared equity scheme could help up to 74,000 home buyers over three years, equating to about 25% of the current new-build output. (more…)