Sterling steadies ahead of UK GDP data

Donald Tusk

"Despite the weak outlook, the Bank of England will now nearly certainly raise the Bank Rate by 25 basis points on 2nd November", said Daniel Vernazza, chief United Kingdom economist at UniCredit.

Last month the BoE said yesterday's preliminary data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) was likely to show 0.3% growth, though it might be stronger due to improving consumer demand.

A Reuters poll published on Tuesday showed the BoE is widely expected to raise rates to 0.50% from 0.25% on November 2, due to concerns that the economy can not grow as fast as it used to without generating excess inflation.

Indeed, although the figures show that the United Kingdom hasn't suffered from a Brexit induced recession as some predicted, this still could be the weakest year of growth since the financial crisis.

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Nonetheless, most economists polled by Reuters think it would be a mistake for the BoE to hike interest rates now, in part because of the economic uncertainty generated by the Brexit process.

And with economic growth more robust than many economists expected, those who support that direction of travel on the MPC will be emboldened. "That will clarify the impact of today's results on tax, on wages on the housing market and in the now extreme likelihood of a rate rise".

But the Bank is sending a clear message - slowly, eventually, the period of historically low interest rates is coming to an end.

Chancellor Philip Hammond said that they show a "successful and resilient economy which is supporting a record number of people in employment".

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"My focus now, and going into the budget, is on boosting productivity so that we can deliver higher-wage jobs and a better standard of living for people across the country", he said.

"The Chancellor can not keep hiding from the facts, as his approach of carrying on as usual is seriously putting working people's living standards at risk".

"Services, led by increases in IT, motor trades and retail, continued to drive GDP growth".

But the service sector - which accounts for nearly 80% of the economy's output - had the biggest overall contribution with a 0.4% growth over the quarter.

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According to the ONS, the figures bring the estimated full year growth to 1.5% - meaning that the economy is expanding at a slower rate than in 2016, which stood at an annualised rate of 1.8%. While services grew by 1%, construction contracted by 0.7%.

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