The UK economy contracted by 0.2 per cent in the second quarter of the year, its worst performance since 2012.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed the surprise contraction, which was significantly lower than the flatline economists expected. It also follows strong growth of 1.8 per cent seen in Q1.
“PMI data had indicated we were set for a contraction, albeit not so severe,” explained Neil Wilson, Chief Markets Analyst at MARKETS.COM.
Much of the growth in the first quarter was attributed to panic buying and stockpiling before the original March Brexit deadline. Indeed, Head of GDP Rob Kent-Smith, also blamed the 2.3 per cent drop in Manufacturing output in the Brexit delay. The initial strong start to the year included production brought forward ahead of the UK’s departure from the EU.
The services sector was the only positive contributor to GDP growth in the quarter to June 2019 – but only just at 0.1 per cent. This marks the weakest quarterly growth in this sector since Q2 2016.
Output from the production and construction sectors also contracted at -1.4 per cent and -1.3 per cent respectively.
Cable dropped sharply on the news, before recovering slightly. Having fallen below 1.2090, GBPUSD was last recovering above 1.21 but remains under pressure and a good 30 pips away from its highs of the day. Having breached yesterday’s lows we may see further testing of the downside.
“Clearly the unwind of stockpiling carried out in Q1 ahead of the aborted March 31st Brexit deadline has had an impact. Also, we can point to plenty of data around the world that shows we are in the middle of a broad global slowdown,” Wilson said.
“But you do have to admit that the pervasive uncertainty around Brexit is acting as a brake on the economy.”
Rolling three-month growth was negative 0.2 per cent in the three months to June 2019, the first time since Q4 2012. This continued a steady decline in three-month growth since the start of the year.
So, was there anything positive in the latest GDP figures?
“Well, a lot of the decline seems to be down to the fall in car making as companies brought forward usual summer shutdowns of factories. The sharp fall in manufacturing output was led by a 5.2 per cent decline transport equipment, which the ONS says largely reflected the partial closures of various car manufacturing plants. This may be partially recovered in the second half, while we may see further stockpiling ahead of the October 31st deadline that leads to a boost to Q3 numbers,” said Wilson.
However, he added, “but on the whole the figures make for worrying reading”.