UK economy grew faster than expected in run-up to EU vote

AP News
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Posted: Jul 27, 2016 6:58 AM
UK economy grew faster than expected in run-up to EU vote

LONDON (AP) — Britain's economy grew faster than expected in the run-up to the vote to leave the European Union, official figures showed Wednesday — little consolation for a country that is already seeing business activity decline sharply as a result of the referendum's outcome.

The Office for National Statistics said that the economy grew by a relatively strong 0.6 percent in the three months through June, compared with the previous quarter. That's up from the first quarter's 0.4 percent growth and above analyst forecasts for 0.5 percent.

The growth was helped by a strong rise in the notoriously volatile figures for industrial output, as well as expansion in services and retailing. The statistics agency suggests that any uncertainties ahead of the June 23 vote seemed to have had a limited impact on the economy.

Treasury chief Philip Hammond said it shows that the fundamentals of the British economy are strong and that it is "clear we enter our negotiations to leave the EU from a position of economic strength."

Analysts, however, note that the economy is due to grind to a halt or even contract after the vote, which has seen business activity take a substantial hit. Many still expect the Bank of England to provide more stimulus at its next meeting in August.

A survey of executives in the services and manufacturing sectors carried out in the wake of the vote and published last week was dire. It showed manufacturing companies were cutting jobs and that confidence in the services sector had plummeted as businesses saw output and new orders drop amid the uncertainty. Overall, it indicated that the economy was likely falling at its fastest pace since early 2009.

Business activity may stabilize somewhat after the initial post-vote shock captured by that survey, but experts agree that the economy is in for a period of turbulence and uncertainty.

"While the treasury may points toward these figures as an indication that the U.K. economy can still flourish, we are now living in very different times post-Brexit, and it is highly likely we will see UK GDP contract in the third and fourth quarters," said James Mills, analyst at currency exchange service UKForex.