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Weak economic end to 2009

BRITAIN’S chances of posting a strong economic recovery in the fourth quarter of 2009 will suffer a sharp setback today thanks to the latest quarterly economic survey published by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

Although the business lobby’s fourth quarter survey reported improvements in most key national indicators, it said progress had been weaker than it was in the third quarter of 2009 – when the UK economy continued to contract by 0.2 per cent.

Despite a weak domestic market, the export position strengthened in the fourth quarter, with manufacturers benefiting in particular. The services sector performed worse than manufacturing, with negative balances for home sales and orders, employment, cashflow and investment in plant and machinery.

All investment balances improved but some, such as manufacturers’ capital investment intentions, worryingly remained in negative territory.

David Kern, chief economist at the BCC, said: “The continuing need to improve access to finance for credit-worthy businesses is confirmed in the survey’s cashflow balances, which are barely positive for manufacturing, and have actually moved deeper into negative territory for services.”

Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Philip Hammond, said: “Labour’s policies are holding businesses back instead of helping them when they need it most. For all Gordon Brown’s claims, companies are struggling to access the finance they need.”