Demand and output

Section 2 of the Inflation Report - February 2018

GDP growth slowed around the beginning of 2017 but has picked up slightly in recent quarters. Consumption growth has been subdued as households are adjusting to the squeeze in real incomes following sterling’s depreciation. That depreciation and the strength in global growth have supported net trade and should continue to do so. Global growth has also supported business investment but the drag from uncertainty around the United Kingdom’s future trading arrangements has meant investment has been notably weaker than in previous expansions.

GDP growth picked up in 2017 H2, having slowed at the start of 2017 (Chart 2.1). Consumption growth has been subdued as households have been adjusting to the reduction in their real incomes due to the fall in sterling (Section 2.2). Partially offsetting that, net trade has picked up since the start of 2017, supported by the increase in global demand and sterling's depreciation (Section 2.5). Business investment growth has been stable over the past year, but it is notably weaker than in previous expansions as a result of the drag from uncertainty around Brexit.

The near-term outlook is slightly stronger than in November, with UK growth expected to be supported by the continued strength in global economic activity (Section 1). But household real income growth remains subdued. Although growth in GDP is projected to be modest by historical standards, it is still expected to be at, or slightly above, that of potential supply — the pace at which output can grow consistent with balanced inflationary pressures (Section 3).

2.1    Output

Output growth picked up to 0.5% in 2017 Q4 (Chart 2.1). That was 0.1 percentage points higher than projected in November. Much of the increase since 2017 H1 has been driven by a strengthening in business-facing service sectors. In addition, manufacturing output growth picked up over 2017 (Chart 2.2), with capital and intermediate goods accounting for much of that strength. Activity in both business-facing services and manufacturing sectors is likely to have benefited from the past fall in sterling and the boost to export demand from the continued strength of global growth (Section 1).

Offsetting that to some extent, output growth in the consumer services sector was relatively weak in Q4, reflecting similar trends in household spending. In addition, disruption to oil production from the temporary closure of a major North Sea oil pipeline in December weighed on growth in Q4. The pipeline has been reopened and that should boost growth in 2018 Q1, as production returns to its previous level. Weakness in construction activity has also weighed on growth in recent quarters, though some of that may be revised up over time. Initial estimates of construction output have been particularly prone to upward revisions in recent years.

Output growth is projected to slow slightly to 0.4% in Q1 (Chart 2.1). That is broadly consistent with survey indicators.

2.2   Household spending

Consumption growth slowed at the start of 2017, with average quarterly growth over the year expected to have been around 0.3%, down from 0.7% in 2016 (Table 2.A). Within that, there has been some quarter-to-quarter volatility, partly reflecting moves in specific components of consumption, such as vehicles and energy (Chart 2.3).

Although consumption growth has slowed, it has outpaced growth in real income. Real post-tax income growth has slowed since the end of 2015, and income fell 0.8% in the year to 2017 Q3 (Chart 2.4). Households' real income has been squeezed by rises in import prices following the depreciation of sterling (Section 1). In recent quarters, nominal income growth has also been depressed by a fall in non-labour income, such as investment income earned on households' pension schemes.

As discussed in the box on pages 16–17 of the May 2017 Report, non-labour income is generally less accessible and less visible to households, and so is likely to be a less significant influence on short-term spending decisions. The decline in non-labour income has therefore been reflected in a fall in the saving ratio, which is now well below its historical average (Chart 2.5). A measure of saving out of available income, which excludes some elements of non-labour income, has also fallen, but remains around its past average.

Real income and the saving ratio are expected to be temporarily boosted in 2018 Q1 by a fall in taxes paid on corporate dividends. As explained in the August 2017 Report, a pre-announced rise in the effective rate of tax on dividends in 2016 led to some dividend payments being brought forward to the 2015/16 financial year. The tax on this income is generally paid at the end of the following financial year and so taxes paid increased in 2017 Q1. As a result, dividend payments in 2016/17 were lower than usual and so taxes paid are expected to fall in 2018 Q1. That will boost household incomes and the saving ratio in Q1, but this will unwind in Q2.

One important influence on how much of their incomes households choose to spend is their confidence about future incomes and economic prospects. Consumer confidence has fallen since the start of 2016. It remains, however, only a little below its historical average (Chart 2.6). Moreover, most of that deterioration has been driven by lower household confidence in the general economic situation. Measures reflecting households' own finances or spending have been more stable.

Interest rates also influence how much of their incomes households spend. A rise in interest rates will raise income for net savers and interest payments by net borrowers. As borrowers' spending tends to be more sensitive to such changes, a rise in interest rates will weigh on consumption growth through this 'cash-flow' channel. In addition, rises in interest rates will increase the incentive to save rather than borrow for all households.

As explained in Box 2, the recent rise in Bank Rate is feeding through to higher borrowing and deposit rates for many households. Interest rates overall, however, remain at very low levels, and below those in May 2016.

Over and above changes in Bank Rate, changes in the cost and availability of consumer credit can also affect spending. There is evidence of a modest tightening in consumer credit conditions over the past year. For example, respondents to the Bank's Credit Conditions Survey reported a reduction in consumer credit availability throughout 2017. Consistent with that, non-price terms, such as the average interest-free period on credit card balance transfers, tightened slightly over the year. However, credit conditions are still supportive and competition between lenders remains intense.

Although availability has fallen slightly, demand for consumer credit is likely to have remained relatively strong over 2017, with four-quarter consumer credit growth a little under 10% in Q4. Credit growth has, however, slowed in the car finance market, reflecting, at least in part, a slowdown in the rate of structural change toward dealership finance.1 There have also been some recent signs of an easing in wider credit demand. For example, respondents to the latest Credit Conditions Survey reported, on balance, a fall in demand for non-credit card unsecured lending, such as personal loans. Overall, indicators suggest that consumer credit growth is likely to slow slightly in 2018. As explained in the box on pages 16–17 of the November 2017 Report, however, this, in itself, is unlikely to have a significant impact on consumption.

Consumption growth is expected to remain subdued in the near term, although stable household confidence and supportive financial conditions mean that it is projected to continue to outstrip underlying income growth. Further ahead, consumption growth is projected to remain broadly stable at subdued rates (Section 5).

2.3   Housing

Activity in the housing market is a good indicator of consumption, as decisions about whether to buy a house and how much to consume tend to be driven by common factors such as income growth and confidence. It also affects consumption directly. For example, increases in house prices can affect spending by raising the value of homeowners' equity, which can be used as collateral against which to borrow. This effect is estimated to be small, however.2 Developments in the housing market will also affect aggregate demand through housing investment. That picked up in Q3 (Table 2.A), with quarterly growth above its past average rate.

Around four fifths of housing investment consists of new buildings and improvements to existing buildings. Housing investment over 2017 has been supported in part by new home building, with housing starts having increased since 2016 Q1 (Chart 2.7). Contacts of the Bank's Agents have reported that starts have been supported in part by demand for new-build properties from first-time buyers using the Help to Buy equity loan scheme. Starts fell back in 2017 Q3, however, which will weigh slightly on housing investment growth in the near term.

The remaining fifth of housing investment is made up of services associated with property transactions. While housing market transactions have been broadly stable in 2017 H2, mortgage approvals for house purchase drifted lower (Chart 2.8). Housing market activity will have been supported by the low level of mortgage interest rates. Although the increase in Bank Rate in November has begun to be passed through to mortgage rates, those interest rates remain low, in part as a result of continued strong competition among lenders (see Box 2).

Annualised house price inflation was 5% in Q4, according to the average of lenders' indices, above expectations at the time of the November 2017 Report. More recent data, however, suggest that house price inflation was weaker in January than on average in Q4. While price expectations 12 months ahead remain positive, the RICS survey pointed to some weakness in the near term, with respondents, on balance, expecting house price falls over the next three months, driven in particular by London and the South East.

Overall, activity in the housing market is projected to pick up a little in the near term, while house price inflation and housing investment growth are expected to slow slightly. Measures detailed in the November 2017 Budget to support homeownership — such as stamp duty relief for first-time buyers, an expansion of the Help to Buy equity loan scheme and measures aiming to boost housebuilding — may support activity, particularly for first-time buyers. The impact on the overall housing market is likely to be small, however. 

2.4   Government

The MPC's projections are conditioned on the Government's tax and spending plans detailed in the November 2017 Budget. Measures set out under these plans suggest a shallower path for fiscal consolidation over the next three years than in the March 2017 Budget, on which the MPC's November forecasts were conditioned (Chart 2.9). That more gradual consolidation reflects a combination of increased spending and a reduction in taxes.

The shallower path of structural budget consolidation is projected to provide a small boost to GDP over the next three years, relative to projections in the November 2017  Report, as households and companies adjust their spending over time in response to Government measures (Section 5).

2.5   Net trade and the current account

The strength in global growth, alongside the depreciation of sterling, will support demand partly by boosting net trade. Greater export demand, combined with the rise in profit margins on exports in sterling terms should encourage new and existing exporters to expand their production. In addition, higher import prices should encourage UK households and companies to substitute towards domestically produced goods and services. Net trade will also depend, however, on how companies here and abroad begin to adjust trading relationships in light of the United Kingdom's prospective withdrawal from the European Union.

Exports

Export growth increased to 8.4% in the year to 2017 Q3 (Chart 2.10), slightly stronger than expected in the November 2017 Report. Much of that growth reflected higher goods exports over the past year, although services exports also picked up slightly in Q3. 

The depreciation of sterling, alongside the strength of global demand, is likely to be supporting growth in export volumes. Between 2015 Q4 and 2017 Q3 export prices fell 7% in foreign currency terms, suggesting some increase in competitiveness. In addition, export prices rose by 12% in sterling terms, which suggests that the depreciation has also allowed exporters to increase their profit margins. The rise in margins should support an expansion in export volumes for those firms with spare capacity. Indicators from the CBI, BCC and the Bank's Agents all suggest that spare capacity in the manufacturing sector overall has been reduced over the past year. As spare capacity dwindles, further expansion by exporters will require investment in additional capacity (Section 2.6).

Quarterly export growth is expected to have remained robust in Q4 — consistent with the strength of business services and manufacturing sector output in that quarter (Section 2.1) — although four-quarter growth in exports is expected to slow somewhat, due to the comparison with unusually strong export growth at the end of 2016 (Chart 2.10). Survey indicators suggest that export growth is likely to remain strong in the near term, as support from the strength of global demand and the past fall in sterling continues (Section 1).

Imports and net trade

Although the fall in sterling has pushed up import prices, import growth remained solid over 2017. As a result, import penetration — the proportion of demand satisfied using imported goods and services — has continued to rise (Chart 2.11). Import growth is projected to slow in coming quarters, as companies gradually adjust their supply chains and domestic producers of substitutes for imports expand capacity in response to higher import prices. Consistent with that, contacts of the Bank's Agents in the manufacturing sector reported some increased sourcing from domestic customers.

With imports and exports growing at a similar pace, net trade volumes were flat in Q3. The projected strength of exports in Q4, relative to imports means that net trade probably contributed significantly to GDP growth in Q4. The strength in global demand means net trade is expected to continue contributing significantly to growth further ahead (Section 5).

Although net trade was unchanged in Q3, the current account deficit — which reflects the balance of nominal trade flows and other payments between the United Kingdom and rest of the world — narrowed to 4.5% of GDP. Most of that reflected a narrowing in the deficit on primary income — the net value of investment income received by UK residents. The current account deficit is expected to have remained broadly stable as a percentage of GDP in Q4 (Chart 2.12).

2.6   Business investment

Business investment growth has been steady in the year to 2017 Q3 (Chart 2.13). It is likely to have been supported by a number of factors over the past year. Those include supportive financial conditions, high rates of return on capital and the strengthening in global demand growth. However, as discussed in Box 3, other factors, such as uncertainty about future UK trading arrangements, appear to be weighing on investment. As a result, investment growth remains notably weaker than in previous expansions.

Although the increase in Bank Rate has pushed up interest rates facing companies (see Box 2), the overall cost of borrowing remains low. UK companies have benefited from favourable financing conditions in global capital markets, which have been supported by the global growth outlook (Section 1). The volume of external finance raised fell slightly in Q4, largely driven by net corporate bond and equity issuance (Chart 2.14). Banks responding to the Credit Conditions Survey also reported a fall in demand for lending across corporates of all sizes over 2017 H2.

The strength in global demand growth should encourage exporters, and domestic producers supplying exporters, to invest in additional capacity (Section 2.5). The fall in sterling may also encourage domestically focused companies to increase investment, in order to expand production of domestic substitutes for imported goods and services, following rises in import prices.

Despite those incentives to invest, most surveys of investment intentions changed little in 2017 (Chart 2.13), and the Bank's Decision Maker Panel Survey suggests that exporters' investment spending grew no faster than that of non-exporters in 2017. As set out in Box 3, there is evidence that the anticipation of Brexit and related uncertainties are weighing on businesses' investment plans. Moreover, as the share of imported inputs in investment is around 30%, the depreciation of sterling will have increased the cost of investment.

Overall, business investment is projected to grow at a little above past average rates in the near term, supported by global activity and financial conditions. Investment is likely to remain sensitive to developments in negotiations around the United Kingdom's future trading arrangements with the European Union. Moreover, given past falls, investment remains low relative to the size of the capital stock. As such, the capital stock is projected to expand only slowly, weighing on productivity growth relative to the past (Section 3).

 

Chart 2.1

GDP growth picked up in 2017 Q4
Output growth and Bank staff's near-term projection (a)

Chart 2.1

  • Notes
    Sources: ONS and Bank calculations.

    (a) Chained-volume measures. GDP is at market prices.
    (b) The latest backcast, shown to the left of the vertical line, is a judgement about the path for GDP in the final estimate of the data. The observation for 2018 Q1, to the right of the vertical line, is consistent with the MPC's central projection.
    (c) The blue diamond shows Bank staff's projection for preliminary GDP growth in 2018 Q1. The bands on either side of the diamonds show uncertainty around those projections based on one root mean squared error of past Bank staff forecasts for quarterly GDP growth made since 2004.

    (b) The latest backcast, shown to the left of the vertical line, is a judgement about the path for GDP in the final estimate of the data. The observation for 2018 Q1, to the right of the vertical line, is consistent with the MPC's central projection.
    (c) The blue diamond shows Bank staff's projection for preliminary GDP growth in 2018 Q1. The bands on either side of the diamonds show uncertainty around those projections based on one root mean squared error of past Bank staff forecasts for quarterly GDP growth made since 2004.

Chart 2.2

Manufacturing continued to support output growth in Q4
Contributions to average quarterly GVA growth (a)

Chart 2.2

  • Notes
    (a) Chained-volume measures at basic prices. Figures in parentheses are weights in nominal GDP in 2015. Components may not sum to the total due to chain-linking.
    (b) Other production includes utilities, extraction and agriculture.

Table 2.A

Expenditure components of demand (a)

Table 2.A

  • Notes
    (a) Chained-volume measures unless otherwise stated.
    (b) Includes non-profit institutions serving households (NPISH).
    (c) Investment data take account of the transfer of nuclear reactors from the public corporation sector to central government in 2005 Q2.
    (d) Excludes the alignment adjustment.
    (e) Percentage point contributions to quarterly growth of real GDP.
    (f) Includes acquisitions less disposals of valuables.
    (g) Excluding the impact of missing trader intra-community (MTIC) fraud.

Chart 2.3

Some components of consumption have been particularly volatile in 2017
Contributions to quarterly growth in consumption (a) (b)

Chart 2.3

  • Notes
    (a) Chained-volume measures. Data to 2017 Q3 exclude NPISH. Figures in parentheses are shares in consumption in 2015. Shares do not sum to 100 due to rounding. Other goods are calculated as a residual.
    (b) Data point for 2017 Q4 shows Bank staff's projection for consumption growth including NPISH.

Chart 2.4

Household real income growth has slowed
Consumption growth and contributions to four-quarter real post-tax income growth

Chart 2.4

  • Notes
    (a) Wages and salaries plus mixed income.
    (b) General government benefits less employees' National Insurance contributions, plus private pension receipts.
    (c) Non‑labour income forms the remainder of total post‑tax income.
    (d) Four-quarter growth. Chained-volume measures. Includes NPISH.
    (e) Measured using the consumption deflator (including NPISH).
    (f) Nominal post‑tax income divided by the consumption deflator (including NPISH).

Chart 2.5

The saving ratio has fallen further over the past year
Household saving

Chart 2.5

  • Notes
    (a) Saving as a percentage of household post-tax income. Includes NPISH. The diamond shows Bank staff's projection for 2017 Q4.
    (b) Saving as a percentage of household post-tax income, excluding income not directly received by households such as flows into employment-related pension schemes and imputed rents. Excludes NPISH.

Chart 2.6

The fall in confidence in recent years has been associated with lower sentiment about the general economy
Indicators of consumer confidence

Chart 2.6

  • Notes
    Sources: GfK (research carried out on behalf of the European Commission) and Bank calculations.

    (a) Average of the net balances of respondents reporting that: their financial situation has got better over the past 12 months; their financial situation is expected to get better over the next 12 months; the general economic situation has got better over the past 12 months; the general economic situation is expected to get better over the next 12 months; and now is the right time to make major purchases, such as furniture or electrical goods.

Table 2.B

Monitoring the MPC's key judgements

Table 2.B

Chart 2.7

Housing starts have been rising but fell slightly in Q3
UK private housing starts (a)

Chart 2.7

  • Notes
    Sources: Department for Communities and Local Government and Bank calculations.

    (a) Number of permanent dwellings started by private enterprises up to 2017 Q3 for England and Northern Ireland. Data from 2011 Q2 for Wales and 2017 Q2 for Scotland have been grown in line with permanent dwelling starts by private enterprises in England. Data are seasonally adjusted by Bank staff.

Chart 2.8

Housing market activity has slowed slightly
Mortgage approvals, housing transactions and house prices

Chart 2.8

  • Notes
    Sources: Bank of England, HM Revenue and Customs, IHS Markit, Nationwide and Bank calculations.

    (a) Number of residential property transactions for values of £40,000 or above.
    (b) Average of the quarterly Halifax/Markit and Nationwide house price indices.

Chart 2.9

The projected fall in public sector net borrowing is more gradual than in the March 2017 Budget
Public sector net borrowing (a)

Chart 2.9

  • Notes
    Sources: Office for Budget Responsibility and ONS.

    (a) Excludes public sector banks. Data are for financial years. Projections are from the Office for Budget Responsibility's March and November 2017 Economic and Fiscal Outlooks.

Chart 2.10

Indicators of UK export growth continue to be robust
UK exports and survey indicators of export growth

Chart 2.10

  • Notes
    Sources: Bank of England, BCC, CBI, EEF, IHS Markit, ONS and Bank calculations.

    (a) Swathe includes: BCC net percentage balance of companies reporting that export orders and deliveries increased on the quarter (data are not seasonally adjusted); CBI average of the net percentage balances of manufacturing companies reporting that export orders and deliveries increased on the quarter, and that their present export order books are above normal volumes (the latter series is a quarterly average of monthly data); Markit/CIPS net percentage balance of manufacturing companies reporting that export orders increased this month compared with the previous month (quarterly average of monthly data); Agents measure of manufacturing companies' reported annual growth in production for sales to overseas customers over the past three months (last available observation for each quarter); EEF average of the net percentage balances of manufacturing companies reporting that export orders increased over the past three months and were expected to increase over the next three months. Indicators are scaled to match the mean and variance of four‑quarter export growth since 2000.
    (b) Chained‑volume measure, excluding the impact of MTIC fraud. The diamond shows Bank staff's projection for 2017 Q4.

Chart 2.11

Import penetration has continued to rise
Imports relative to import-weighted demand (a)

Chart 2.11

  • Notes
    (a) UK imports as a proportion of import-weighted total final expenditure, chained-volume measures. Import-weighted total final expenditure is calculated by weighting together household consumption (including non-profit institutions serving households), whole-economy investment (excluding valuables), government spending, changes in inventories (excluding the alignment adjustment) and exports by their respective import intensities, estimated using the United Kingdom Input-Output Analytical Tables 2013. Import and export data have been adjusted to exclude the estimated impact of MTIC fraud.

Chart 2.12

The current account deficit has narrowed slightly
UK current account (a)

Chart 2.12

  • Notes
    a) The diamond shows Bank staff's projection for 2017 Q4.

Chart 2.13

Business investment growth has been stable
Business investment and survey indicators of investment intentions (a)

Chart 2.13

  • Notes
    Sources: Bank of England, BCC, CBI, CBI/PwC, ONS and Bank calculations.

    (a) Survey measures are scaled to match the mean and variance of four‑quarter business investment growth since 2000. CBI measure is the net percentage balance of respondents reporting that they have increased planned investment in plant and machinery for the next 12 months. BCC measure is the net percentage balance of respondents reporting that they have increased planned investment in plant and machinery; data are not seasonally adjusted. Agents measure shows companies' intended changes in investment over the next 12 months; last available observation for each quarter. Sectors are weighted together using shares in real business investment.
    (b) Chained‑volume measure. Data are adjusted for the transfer of nuclear reactors from the public corporation sector to central government in 2005 Q2. The diamond shows Bank staff's projection for 2017 Q4.

Chart 2.14

Net external finance raised weakened in 2017 Q4
Net external finance raised by UK private non-financial corporations (a)

Chart 2.14

  • Notes
    a) Includes sterling and foreign currency funds from UK monetary financial institutions and capital markets.
    (b) Not seasonally adjusted.
    (c) Includes stand‑alone and programme bonds.
    (d) As component series are not all seasonally adjusted, the total may not equal the sum of its components.

Box 3: Brexit and business investment

The prospect of the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union (EU) appears to have been a key influence on companies' investment decisions over the past year or so. As set out in this box, Brexit-related effects appear to have weighed on investment plans. As a result, growth in business investment — which, on a four-quarter basis, has picked up since 2016 H1 to 1.7% in 2017 Q3 — is likely to have been weaker than it would otherwise have been, given strong global demand and supportive financial conditions.

Brexit could affect investment decisions in a number of ways. First, the anticipation of changes to UK trading arrangements could change the incentives for businesses to invest. It may discourage some export-focused businesses — particularly those exporting to the EU — from investing in additional capacity, while for others the anticipation of domestic substitution away from imports or improved trading relationships with non-EU countries could encourage higher investment. Second, uncertainty around what shape trading arrangements eventually take could cause companies to defer or cancel investment plans in the short term. Third, as discussed in Section 2.6, the Brexit-related fall in sterling could also affect investment: on the one hand, pushing down investment by increasing its cost; and on the other hand, pushing up investment by increasing profit margins on exports, and therefore the incentive to expand capacity.

Overall, a range of indicators suggests that Brexit-related uncertainty and expectations around lower future sales are, on balance, weighing on business investment growth. Estimates derived from the Bank's Decision Maker Panel (DMP) Survey suggest nominal investment was around 3%–4% lower over the year to 2017 H1 than it would otherwise have been. In view of the impact of the fall in sterling on the cost of investment goods, the impact on real business investment is likely to have been larger. Given the continuing negotiations over the United Kingdom's future trading relationship with the EU, there are risks in both directions to the path for business investment in coming years. If uncertainty persists, the drag on capital expenditure could intensify as businesses delay plans further. By contrast, those deferred plans may be brought forward if businesses gain clarity about future trading arrangements, pushing up aggregate investment growth.

Survey evidence on the impact of Brexit on business investment

Since the referendum, a range of business surveys has, on balance, pointed to a negative effect on investment from uncertainty around the United Kingdom's future trading arrangements (Chart A). Most surveys, however, only provide evidence on what share of businesses are planning to adjust investment, and not by how much.

Data from the DMP Survey can provide quantitative evidence on how much business investment has been affected by anticipation of Brexit and associated uncertainty. The DMP Survey is a monthly survey of senior executives, set up to monitor the impact of Brexit on companies' decision-making. As of November 2017, the survey panel consisted of around 2,400 companies, with around 1,200 responding to the survey that month. Unlike most other business surveys, the DMP Survey asks participants for the probabilities they ascribe to various outcomes in a number of areas relating to their business, from which average expected outcomes can be calculated.(1) 

The DMP Survey results suggest that Brexit weighed on business investment growth in the year to 2017 H1. Businesses that rank Brexit among their top three sources of uncertainty have, on average, reduced investment spending, as have businesses that, on balance, expect a negative impact from Brexit on their sales (Chart B). Comparing those responses with the responses of firms that do not see Brexit as an important source of uncertainty and/or do not expect a negative impact on sales, Bank staff estimate that, in the year to 2017 H1, Brexit-related uncertainty and expectations of lower future sales reduced nominal investment by around 3%–4%.(2) The depreciation of sterling associated with Brexit may have also affected investment, over and above those direct effects. For example, the increased costs of investment means that the drag on real business investment is likely to have been somewhat larger.

Export-focused companies are likely to be particularly affected by Brexit-related uncertainty. Perhaps consistent with that, the Bank's Agents' company visit scores suggest that investment intentions by exporters were broadly flat over 2017, despite an increase in export sales (Chart C). And in the Bank's DMP Survey, investment growth for exporters has, on average, been no stronger than that for other companies. That is despite support from global demand growth and a rise in profit margins due to the fall in sterling.

Responses to the DMP Survey suggest that these Brexit-related effects on business investment growth are expected to diminish over the next year. Applying the same approach as above to companies' expected investment spend over the following year suggests that investment is expected to be reduced by a further 1½%–2% in the year to 2018 H1. DMP Survey results are, however, from responses up to November 2017 and some businesses may have reassessed their investment plans more recently in light of developments in Brexit negotiations. Contacts of the Bank's Agents report that, overall, clarity has not increased enough to motivate a substantial reassessment of their investment plans but those plans remain sensitive to further developments.

 

Chart A

Brexit has affected investment plans for a significant proportion of companies
Surveys of the impact of Brexit on investment

Chart A

  • Notes
    Sources: Bank of England, CBI, Deloitte CFO Survey, EEF, Lloyds Bank/London First and Thomson Reuters.

    (a) Factors influencing investment over the next 12 months relative to the previous
    12 months. A company is defined as expecting a negative effect if they report that economic uncertainty, expected future international trade arrangements or other Brexit factors are acting to reduce investment.
    (b) Response to 'How has Brexit impacted your organisation's investment decisions?'. Companies could select the following responses: 'positive', 'no impact' or 'negative'.
    (c) Response to 'Overall how do you think the UK's exit from the EU will affect your business' decision around capital expenditure?'.
    (d) Companies' investment intentions following the EU referendum. A company is defined as expecting a negative effect if they report that they are holding off or limiting investment until there is further clarity on Brexit.
    (e) Percentage of respondents who report that they have been delaying investment decision‑making in response to the EU referendum.
    (f) Percentage of respondents who report that they have held off from expanding operations in the United Kingdom in response to Brexit.

Chart B

Businesses facing greater uncertainty or expecting a negative impact on future sales have reduced investment
The impact of Brexit-related factors on annual investment growth (a)

Chart B

  • Notes
    Sources: Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, DMP Survey and Bank calculations.

    (a) Investment data collected between May and October 2017. Uncertainty and expected impact on sales data collected between August and October 2017. Investment growth is calculated using Davis, Haltiwanger and Schuh (DHS) growth rates. This is the change between two periods, divided by the average of those two periods. It allows growth rates to be calculated for instances where investment was zero in the first period.
    (b) Question: 'How much has the result of the EU referendum affected the level of uncertainty affecting your business?'. Weighted by industry and firm size. Numbers in parentheses indicate proportion of respondents in each category.
    (c) Question: 'The Prime Minister has said that the UK government does 'not seek membership of the Single Market. Instead we seek the greatest possible access to it through a new, comprehensive, bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement'. How likely do you think it is that the eventual agreement will have the following effects, compared to what would have been the case had the United Kingdom remained a member of the EU?'. A firm is defined as expecting a negative effect on sales from Brexit in 2020 if they reported that the probability of a negative outcome less the chance of a positive outcome is 50% or greater; a chance of a negative effect if that probability is between 10% and 49%; and no negative effect expected otherwise. Weighted by industry and firm size. Numbers in parentheses indicate proportion of respondents in each category.

Chart C

Exporters' investment intentions have not increased
Agents' company visit scores for exporters (a)

Chart C

  • Notes
    Sources: Bank of England and Bank calculations.

    (a) Exporters are defined as any firm recording a score for change in the value of export sales.
    Data are six-monthly averages and are unweighted.
This page was last updated 09 February 2018
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