Yesterday's keenly awaited GDP figures allowed the doom-mongers to forecast that the UK was headed for a "triple-dip" recession, if we were not in one already. The Chancellor, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, professed himself disappointed with the news, even as he vowed to press on with Plan A.
The best gloss that can be placed on the figures – a 0.3 per cent contraction of the economy between October and December – is, first, that the extent of the contraction is less than might have been feared; second, that it followed a quarter of higher than expected growth and, third, that performance in both quarters can be put down to special factors – the Olympics in the summer, and disruption to North Sea oil and gas fields in late autumn.
This strongly suggests that, while there may be cause for concern, talk of a real "triple dip" is premature. The variations, up or down, have been smaller than one per cent. The only reasonable conclusion to be drawn is that, year on year, the UK economy remained flat, or, as the Office for National Statistics put it, "on a sluggish trend". With employment holding up much better than expected, there is no reason to panic and every reason to keep calm and carry on.
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