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Economic Week In Review | Issue 361 | 9 January 2023

UK construction and property

  • PMI | The latest survey shows construction activity falling at the fastest rate in two-and-a-half years to 48.8 in December, from 50.4 in November. Commercial construction was the only sector to see an increase.
  • Infrastructure | National Grid Electricity Transmission is launching its New Infrastructure Delivery Onshore Programme to oversee spending plans through to 2030 as part of the Government’s push for Net Zero by 2050. It will see five times the amount of new electricity transmission infrastructure in the next seven years, compared to the previous 30 years; a significant increase, albeit from a relatively low level.
  • New requirements | Almost all new homes in England must be built with gigabit broadband connections during construction. The Building Regulations 2010 have been amended by the Government.

Materials and commodities

  • Price increases | Insulation materials and roofing tiles are expected to increase in price by 10%. The Construction Products Association’s economist – Noble Francis – commented that a lot of manufacturers are on fixed-price energy contracts so the impact of the energy crisis will be phased over time. The CLC commented that “price inflation for products has slightly moderated across the board this month” but that energy and wage costs will put fresh pressures on them. It also commented that reduced demand has helped ease pressures on supply.
  • Water | Preliminary analysis by the Environment Agency suggests that most of England is “still in drought” with reservoirs well below normal levels and at the heart of the problem is the UK’s ageing water infrastructure where leaks are commonplace. It expects more hosepipe bans in the summer.

Energy

  • Energy support | The Treasury is to announce an energy support system for businesses which is expected to be less generous than the current scheme which will expire in March. Last week the Chancellor called the current scheme “unsustainably expensive”.
  • Hydrogen | The House of Commons Science & Technology Committee warned that hydrogen is not a panacea for reaching the net zero emissions by 2050, but that it will have a “specific but limited” role in decarbonising sectors.

UK economy

  • Retail business rates | Analysis by real estate advisers Altus Group shows that the new rateable value of stores over 27,000 sq ft, which is set to form the basis of their business rates bills from 1 April this year, has dropped 15%, from £2.86bn to £2.43bn in total. Some larger superstores have seen the rateable value drop by as much as 50%, whilst the rateable value of smaller food stores has increased.
  • Britishvolt is speaking to a consortium of investors to try and raise funds in order to remain solvent. Its long-term goal is to build a £3.8bn battery gigafactory in the North East of England. It has been given a £100m fund by the Government but must begin construction to unlock the funding.

Global economy

  • German industrial production has increased by slightly more than was expected, which in turn has increased hopes that its recession will be mild. However, production was only up by 0.2%.
  • Eurozone unemployment fell to a record low of 6.5% in November, adding pressure to the European Central Bank to keep raising interest rates.
  • Gas nationalisation | The European Union has approved the nationalisation of two major gas suppliers. The rescues (worth a combined €40.8bn) are part of €200bn package put together by the German government to help companies and households weather the rising gas prices.

 

The future of work

  • Calendar purge | Canadian e-commerce company, Shopify, notified all its employees to conduct a “calendar purge”, declining all recurring meetings with more than two people and to remove themselves from large internal chat groups. A recent survey by Stephen Rogelberg (professor of organizational science, psychology and management at the University of North Carolina) showed that employees generally spend about 18 hours a week on average in meetings, and they only decline 14% of invites even though they’d prefer to back out of 31% of them

Friday to Friday

Price / Index Week %
change
Annual %
change
FTSE 100 7,699.49 3.32 2.86
FTSE 250 19,504.72 3.46 -16.48
Nikkei 25,973.85 -0.46 -8.80
CSI 300 3,980.89 2.82 -17.45
S&P 500 3,895.08 1.45 -16.72
Nasdaq 10,569.29 0.98 -29.24
CAC 40 6,860.95 5.98 -4.97
Dax 14,610.02 4.93 -8.39
$ per £ 1.2066 -0.09 -11.16
€ per £ 1.1361 0.59 -5.01
Gold £/oz 1,542.94 2.32 16.68
Brent Oil $/barrel 79.57 -8.54 -3.89

Weekly Summary

The issues which emerged at the end of 2022 – labour shortages, droughts, energy resilience, need for infrastructure growth, and funding issues – all mean that we enter 2023 with more questions. Businesses need support to help navigate these unknowns and consumers (which can also be businesses) will no doubt be concerned about how many more cost increases they can endure.

As well as questions about our economic health and stability, the commercial office property is having its status quo challenged as a result of corporate cost-cutting and new ways of working.

Author contact

Rachel Coleman
Rachel Coleman,
Associate Research Analyst

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