The pound has dropped to its lowest level since 27 December, after the ONS released its latest GDP estimate for the month of November.

ONS numbers

According to the ONS, the UK GDP grew by 0.1% in the three months to November, while it shrank by 0.3% in November 2019. The contraction in November was worse than expected as uncertainty over the general election and the threat of crashing out of the EU without a deal in October weighed on the economy.

As the ONS figures demonstrate, the services and production sectors grew by 0.1% and 1.1%, respectively in the three months to November 2019, but the production sector fell by 0.6%, its second consecutive rolling three-month decline, while manufacturing output fell by 1.7%.

The ONS stated: “Production fell by 1.2% in the month of November 2019, following growth of 0.4% in October. Within production, manufacturing fell by 1.7%. This was largely driven by large falls in the manufacture of transport equipment, food, and chemicals. These industries were also the main drags on growth in April 2019, just after the UK's original planned date to exit the European Union as shown in Figure 5. This may be indicative of some changes in the timing of activity around the second planned departure in October.”

Today’s figures confirm that the UK economy has slowed for two consecutive months, shrinking in April-June, then showing 0.4% growth in July-September, something which has helped to avoid a recession. It has slowed again to 0.2% in August-October, and 0.1% in September-November.

The Office for National Statistics’ head of GDP, Rob Kent-Smith, said that UK growth was at its lowest level since 2012: “Overall, the economy grew slightly in the latest three months, with growth in construction pulled back by weakening services and another lacklustre performance from manufacturing. The UK economy grew slightly more strongly in September and October than was previously estimated, with later data painting a healthier picture. Long term, the economy continues to slow, with growth in the economy compared with the same time last year at its lowest since the spring of 2012.”

UK economy stagnant

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) noted that the “latest data confirm that UK economic growth had petered out at the end of last year. GDP was virtually flat in the 3m to Nov & latest surveys point to further stagnation in Dec. The short-term economic outlook is for more lacklustre growth.”

More importantly, the idea of the Bank of England having to cut interest rates has resurfaced as investment strategists and traders have mentioned.

Bank of England: Interest rate cut?

The latest GDP data has boosted the chances of UK interest rates being cut soon, possibly at the Bank of England’s meeting at the end of January. Matthew Cady, investment strategist at Brooks Macdonald, said: “UK GDP for November has come in at negative -0.3%. This is quite a bit weaker than had been expected. Consensus had been looking for zero growth month on month. Against this, both September and October were revised up by 0.2% and 0.1% points respectively. The weaker GDP print today puts beyond doubt that the next Bank of England meeting at the end of January is going to be a ‘live’ meeting.”

Peter Dixon, economist at Commerzbank, said that the possibility of an interest rate cut has risen to 50%: “With a growing chorus on the MPC apparently open to the prospect of a rate cut, if the data points in that direction, today’s release might well tip the balance of one or two members ahead of the meeting on 30 January, where the market probability assigned to a 25 bps cut has risen to 50% versus 5% at the start of last week.”

However, it is also wise to be positive and consider the GDP numbers as indicative of a specific time period rather than of a future trend, as business confidence can return after Boris Johnson’s election. As chief economist at PwC, John Hawksworth, clarified, today’s data relates to a specific “period of heightened economic and political uncertainty” and that “our latest survey of the financial services sector with the CBI does suggest some boost to optimism since the election.”

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