April 21, 2024
Economy

Four reasons for Brits to be cheerful as economy seems to be improving


SPRING has sprung and there are four more reasons for Brits to be cheerful — with signs the economic picture is brightening.

Figures all spelled out good news for property, prices, industry and the stock market.

Spring has sprung with signs the economic picture in Britain is brighteningCredit: Getty

In housing, the number of approved mortgages rose in February to the highest level since the 2022 mini Budget cratered the market.

There were 60,400 granted, compared with 56,100 in January, Bank of England figures showed. And interest rates on those loans is now below 5 per cent.

Stuart Cheetham, boss of MPowered Mortgages, attributed the rise to a price war between lenders.

He said: “A flurry of interest rate cuts in the first weeks of 2024 made mortgages cheaper and kick-started demand from many of the would-be homebuyers who sat out in 2023.”

Nationwide figures showed that house prices dipped by 0.2 per cent month on month in March — although economists called the fall a “blip”.

Shop price inflation gave the economy another boost as it fell from 2.5 per cent in February to 1.3 per cent in March — its lowest since 2021, according to the British Retail Consortium.

Supermarkets are slowing rises as food costs fall and high street firms are discounting products to entice cash-squeezed shoppers. Food inflation is 3.7 per cent, significantly below the 15 per cent peak this time last year.

Manufacturing, meanwhile, has finally returned to growth for the first time since 2022 as firms show greater confidence to place orders, invest and hire again.

The closely watched S&P purchasing managers’ index rose to reach a 20-month high of 50.3, compared with 47.5 in February.

S&P Global director Rob Dobson said UK manufacturing was recovering from “its recent doldrums”. It adds to the evidence that the country is recovering from its brief, mild recession.

What is the Bank of England base rate and how does it affect me?

And in a fourth feel-good indicator, London’s FTSE 100 briefly smashed through the 8,000-point barrier.

The blue-chip index ended up closing down amid a wider global sell-off, but analysts reckon it is in a good position to beat its all-time high of 8,047.06 last February.

SALE SLIP AS TESLA HITS FLAT

TESLA has suffered its first slip in sales in four years amid falling demand for electric cars.

Just under 387,000 were bought in this year’s first quarter, 8 per cent down on 2023 and below analyst expectations. It comes despite owner Elon Musk repeatedly cutting prices.

Tesla faces stiff competition from cheaper Chinese rivals, including BYD which overtook Tesla briefly last year as the world’s biggest seller of electric cars.

Tesla, which has lost a third of its value this year, has blamed the slide in volumes on factory shutdowns caused by the Red Sea conflict and an arson at its gigafactory in Berlin.

Shares fell more than 5 per cent in Wall Street, wiping about £28billion off Tesla’s valuation.

 AD IS GOING WEST

Nationwide’s ads with Dominic West have been banned

THE NATIONWIDE ads featuring Dominic West have been banned after the lender was found to have shut branches despite claiming it would keep them open until 2026.

The actor plays a crass banker who shuts branches to afford his pricey lunch expenses.

The ads claim “unlike the big banks, we’re not closing our branches”.

However, the Advertising Standards Authority found Nationwide had shut 20 in the past year, including six since the adverts starting to air last October.

As a result, the ASA ruled the ads were “misleading”.

GOVT WATER AID

THAMES Water’s financial woes are being managed by the same Government department trying to offload the taxpayers’ stake in NatWest, The Sun can reveal.

UKGI is a Treasury department which looks after the Government’s “most complex commercial interests”, including when interventions are required.

Speculation mounts that Thames, which says it needs £20billion for investment purposes, could end up in a special administration — meaning the firm is temporarily renationalised.

BAR FIRM COCKTAIL OF WOES

FEARS for Revolution Bars grew when the cocktail chain’s shares were temporarily suspended from trading on the junior AIM market.

The move came after it failed to publish its annual results.

The fresh blow arrived just days after it revealed it could shut a quarter of its 70 sites to improve its finances.

The company owns 50 Revolution and Revolucion de Cuba bars — as well as 20 Peach Pubs brands.

It is now locked in talks with would-be investors, including Pizza Express founder Luke Johnson, in order to raise a cash lifeline.

Revolution’s troubles come as the hospitality sector grapples with billions of pounds of extra costs from higher wages, business rates and inflationary pressures.

Its revenues are also under pressure as drinkers cut back on spending amid the cost-of-living crisis.

NEW MAIL BOSS

A FORMER Heathrow executive has flown into the top job at Royal Mail.

Emma Gilthorpe, chief operating officer at the UK’s busiest airport since 2020, takes up her new role in May.

Royal Mail is seeking Ofcom approval to cut its service to six or even three days a week as it battles to cut costs after posting a £419million loss.

Ms Gilthorpe said: “It is an exciting time to be joining Royal Mail at this crucial period for the company.

“Now is the time to ensure it has a successful future too.”

ALDI PUSH ON PRICES

ALDI says it has invested more than £125million lowering prices on a quarter of its ranges so far this year.

The discount supermarket aims to beat the £380million invested in price cuts in 2023, helped by falling food inflation.

Separately, upmarket grocer Waitrose is announcing today that it will cut prices on 200 of its products.

They include 64 in its Essentials range — by an average of 7 per cent.



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