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It's hip to be bear: Business leaders join chorus of economic doomsayers – The Globe and Mail



Photo illustration by The Globe and Mail/Source: Getty Images

Anyone taking the pulse of the economy right now has plenty of reasons to feel optimistic. The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be under control, the Canadian and U.S. economies are still expanding (albeit haltingly), household balance sheets are relatively sound, and unemployment has never been lower.

Yet, those choosing to see the economic bright side these days are a rapidly vanishing breed. Suddenly, the word “recession” is being tossed around by economists, business leaders, politicians and workers alike. Over the past two weeks, an unrelenting stream of high-profile names have joined the grim chorus, including top banking execs such as JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon, billionaire chief executives including Elon Musk and global institution heads like World Bank President David Malpass.

Even Grammy-winning rapper Cardi B chimed in earlier this week, tweeting: “When y’all think they going to announce that we going into a recession?”

Now bearish market watchers who were warning of a downturn as other forecasters ratcheted up their outlooks are finding the mood of the market is starting to match their voices – stock markets are flirting with bear-market territory, and American consumer confidence is plumbing depths not seen in half a century.

Elon Musk is the latest high-profile name to join a grim chorus.RYAN LASH/AFP via Getty Images

And many bears think everyone else is still far too optimistic. “I hear everybody saying the recession is now a next-year story, but I’m saying the next-year story is going to be about the rebirth of the recovery,” says David Rosenberg, chief economist at Toronto-based Rosenberg Research and a self-proclaimed “maverick” contrarian. “I think the recession is already staring us in the face.”

Super-bad feeling

Elon Musk on the economy

With the distorted sense of time brought on by COVID-19, it’s easy to forget that less than a year ago, some were waxing hopeful about a postpandemic economic boom to rival the Roaring Twenties, a decade popularly remembered for its prosperity and hedonism on the heels of the First World War and Spanish Flu pandemic. As vaccines rolled out last year and lockdowns lifted, headlines blared the coming “new Roaring Twenties,” with comedian Bill Maher joking, “Let’s do it this time without a depression at the end.”

Such hopefulness for the immediate future has largely evaporated. Social unrest, punishing price spirals for food and gasoline, and the spectre of a new cold war sparked by Russia’s Ukraine invasion have instead rekindled memories of the 1970s, a decade that gave birth to the toxic mix of low growth and fast-rising prices known as stagflation.

Cars line up in two directions at a gas station in New York City, on Dec. 23, 1973. Canada is leaning towards a new era of 1970’s-style stagflation as the pace of economic growth slows yet prices remain stubbornly high, economists say.Marty Lederhandler/The Associated Press

More immediate than that, though, economists and investors have been spooked by the resolve with which central bankers have sworn to tackle high inflation, ratcheting up interest rates and shrinking their bloated balance sheets.

The U.S. Federal Reserve has announced the most aggressive cycle of monetary tightening since former Fed chairman Paul Volcker nearly doubled interest rates in the 1980s, to 20 per cent, to crush runaway inflation.

Meanwhile, as recently as last month, the Bank of Canada was emphasizing that future rate hikes might be conditional on how the housing market responds. In a mid-May speech, deputy governor Toni Gravelle said “a larger-than-expected slowdown” in the housing market, amplified by the staggering debt loads being carried by Canadian households, “might lead us to pause” rate hikes once they enter the bank’s neutral range of 2 per cent to 3 per cent.

If homebuyers and homeowners took that as a wink-wink signal of an implied floor under house prices, a speech by Mr. Gravelle’s fellow deputy Paul Beaudry earlier this month put that to rest. Without mentioning the housing market once, Mr. Beaudry noted an annual inflation rate of just 5 per cent (it’s currently 6.8 per cent) robs Canadians of $2,000 a year and said inflation expectations are at risk of becoming unanchored. If workers, consumers and business leaders start to think prices will keep going up, he warned, high inflation can become entrenched. “We must – and we will – be resolute in bringing inflation back down.”

There’s a goldilocks-style view of how the coming months will unfold. It holds that central banks can nudge their levers just enough to find the sweet spot where the economy is neither overheating nor contracting – where wages, job growth and consumer prices ease without crippling corporate profits or spooking the so-called animal spirits – thus bringing about a “softish landing” for the economy, as U.S. Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell put it.

The problem is, fewer and fewer people seem to believe that’s possible.

In a note this week, Stephen Brown, senior Canadian economist for Capital Economics, wrote that the Bank of Canada now appears “unfazed” by a recent tumble in home sales and “leaves us concerned that it will take a more aggressive approach to policy tightening than is ultimately required, driving house prices sharply lower and risking a major recession.”

Against this backdrop, the question becomes whether the world’s bad mood will feed on itself. After all, economic activity is often a lagging indicator to sentiment. And while feelings of gloom are more acute in the U.S., that still has a spillover effect in Canada, both directly, through our close trade ties, and psychologically, as consumers here absorb America’s more intense feelings of misery.

I said there’s storm clouds but I’m going to change it. It’s a hurricane. You’d better brace yourself.

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase

The longest bull market in history – which kicked off in 2009 after the Great Recession and which was only interrupted for a few brief months when the entire global economy was put on life support in early 2020 – has not been kind to bears. Investors with a pessimistic outlook and a belief that gravity would eventually pull valuations down from the cosmos were repeatedly left nursing bruised portfolios and battered reputations.

In fact, the past year has seen several famously dour investors call it quits. In November, British hedge fund manager Russell Clark wound down his RC Global Fund after a 10-year wrong-way bet against the bull market. Gabe Plotkin shut down Melvin Capital in May after his bearish wagers against so-called meme stocks – money-losers such as video-game retailer GameStop Corp. and theatre chain AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. that became speculative darlings during the pandemic – went off the rails.

Others bears held on and are now being rewarded as the gloom spreads.

Crispin Odey, another Britain-based investor who oversees the Odey European Inc. hedge fund, has generated a return of 110 per cent this year thanks to his bets that stock prices would fall, erasing six years of losses. “I have the ability to remain in an uncomfortable place for an uncomfortable amount of time,” he told Bloomberg this week. “It is difficult to be a contrarian. You are wrong when you are early, and you make your money very quickly when you are right. It is a bad business structure, and that is why we are rare beasts.”

David Rosenberg is chief economist at Toronto-based Rosenberg Research and a self-proclaimed ‘maverick’ contrarian.Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

Being a bear can indeed be lonely, says Mr. Rosenberg. “The typical economist always feels the necessity to provide a view that’s filled with roses, tulips and violets,” he says, while noting his firm’s own clients don’t always appreciate his downbeat analysis. “It’s amazing that if you talk to clients and discuss the R word, it’s almost as if you’re saying their kid is ugly.”

While bears all share a dismal view of markets and the economy right now, their belief in how everything will come undone tends to differ, particularly when it comes to inflation.

One camp sees the economy on the brink of outright deflation, brought on by a recession caused by central bankers’ tightening policies.

Mr. Rosenberg is one of that camp’s most high-profile proponents. Having foreseen the collapse of the U.S. housing market in the mid-2000s while working as Merrill Lynch’s chief North American economist, he has consistently argued from the moment inflation anxiety took hold last year that prices for goods and services were going to tumble.

Even without central bank intervention, he sees inflation turning to deflation, arguing that with governments pulling back on fiscal stimulus the remaining driver of inflation will be supply disruptions, and the barrage of shocks – Omicron, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and widespread lockdowns of Chinese cities and ports – are unlikely to be repeated.

While Mr. Rosenberg has yet to be proven right with his deflation call, his warning that the Federal Reserve could break the back of the U.S. economy with its rate hikes has become more mainstream. “The Fed has had its thumbprints on 11 recessions since 1950 and only achieved soft landings 20 per cent of the time,” Mr. Rosenberg says. “All I know is what history teaches me, which is that inflation melts in a recession.”

Bill Dudley, former President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.Pool/Reuters

”A hard landing is virtually inevitable.”

Bill Dudley, former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

There’s another camp of bears who believe high inflation will become a lingering problem, even as they foresee a sharper market crash and recession on the horizon. Jeremy Grantham, a prominent value investor and co-founder of Boston money manager GMO LLC, is among them.

In January, Mr. Grantham warned the U.S. was in its “fourth super-bubble” of the modern era, with the previous three being equity bubbles in 1929 and 2000, and the housing bubble in 2006. “At the peak of a bubble, no one wants to hear the bear case,” he says. “People always believe the economy is in fabulous shape and is basically indestructible, and of course in none of the cases has that ever turned out to be true.”

While Mr. Grantham points out the S&P 500 index in the first four months of this year suffered its biggest decline “since I was one year old in 1939,″ he says he wouldn’t feel vindicated in his call if markets stabilized at current levels. (The S&P 500 index is up 5.5 per cent from its 52-week low in May, while the Nasdaq has recovered 6.5 per cent – though both indexes have fallen sharply in recent days.)

That’s because Mr. Grantham sees a much steeper drop ahead, in line with what occurred after the dot-com bubble burst in 2000. In that crash, the S&P 500 was cut in half, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq plunged 75 per cent. “This period is eerily like 2000,” he says.

Mr. Grantham also predicts a recession will hit the U.S. economy in the next 12 months. “If you break the psychological bubble, you get a recession,” he says. Even so, after a temporary slowdown in inflation, he sees price pressures picking up again because of structural factors such as limitations in the supply of labour and resource scarcity. “You have fewer workers, which is inflationary, and shortages of energy, metals and food, which is inflationary, and so the recession will phase into longer-term stagflationary forces that we lived through for quite a long time in the 1970s and 1980s.”

Even the World Bank’s Mr. Malpass, in the organization’s latest Global Economic Prospects report released this week, warned that whether a recession occurs or not, “the pain of stagflation could persist for several years.” (All told, the word “stagflation” appears 75 times in the World Bank report.)

For each of these grim viewpoints, there are, of course, many who take the opposing position. Analysts at U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs this week pointed to signs that economic output continues to expand, even if the “near-term recession risk has increased in a mechanical sense.”

World Bank President David Malpass warned that the pain of stagflation could persist for several years.Yves Herman/Reuters

Meanwhile, Canada’s Big Bank CEOs were cautiously optimistic when they reported second-quarter results last month. “Markets are struggling to predict how we land the economy,” Royal Bank of Canada chief executive Dave McKay said in a call with investors. “Do we land it with a slight recession? Our message today is it could go either way. It’s 50-50. However … we believe the key ingredients are in place to help mitigate any sustained slowdown.” Mr. McKay highlighted low unemployment, rising wages and elevated liquidity as keys to avoiding a recession.

Yet as any bear will tell you, wages and the job market are lagging indicators. And with the mood of investors and consumers souring by the day, the worry now is that feelings of gloom about the economy are becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The world economy is again in danger. … Even if a global recession is averted, the pain of stagflation could persist for several years.

David Malpass, World Bank President

The world has every right to feel dour. Those early predictions of another Roaring Twenties were rooted in an assumption shared by many during the height of the pandemic that an awful moment in time was about to come to an end, that the world would return to normal.

Last May, that sentiment was captured, of all places, in a viral gum commercial. In the spot (which Adweek saw as tapping into the world’s desire for a “euphoric release”) comically dishevelled workers cast off their Zoom-dominated lives, pour into the streets, break down doors to return to their offices and make out with strangers in a park.

Unfortunately, normal has yet to return. Instead, we got Omicron, supply chain bottlenecks that have made it impossible to buy a car or stove, rising prices for food and gas, a war in Europe accompanied by nuclear sabre-rattling, even higher food and gas prices, severe lockdowns in China, and still higher food and gas prices.

As it turns out, last spring – as that gum commercial was making the rounds – marked the high point of the postpandemic mood. Within a month, the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index, the longest-running gauge of consumer confidence in the U.S., topped out before going into free fall. It was also roughly the moment when inflation rates blasted past the 2-per-cent target central banks strive to maintain.

It’s worth remembering that the economic stories in Canada and the U.S. share a lot of similarities, but key differences, too. For one thing, inflation sticker shock isn’t quite as severe here – at least not yet. The Canadian consumer price index rose by 6.8 per cent in April from the year before, compared with 8.6 per cent in the U.S. in May.

At the same time, Canada’s benchmark stock index, the resource-heavy S&P/TSX Composite, has held up relatively well at a time of rising commodity prices. The index is down just 6.5 per cent from its 52-week high, compared with a drop of 16 per cent for the S&P 500. At one point, the U.S. benchmark was down by 25 per cent, briefly putting it in bear-market territory.

As a result, the Canadian decline in consumer confidence has been less acute than south of the border. But aside from the old adage “when the U.S. sneezes, Canada catches a cold,” bears like Mr. Rosenberg also point to what they consider one of the world’s largest housing bubbles as a sign Canada is dangerously exposed to rising interest rates. A drop in house prices would have a profound impact on the psychology of Canadian consumers, he argues, with the “wealth effect” that has driven rising levels of consumption over the past two decades sliding into reverse.

Michael Harnett, Bank of America’s chief investment strategistHandout

”’Inflation shock’ worsening, ‘rates shock’ just beginning, ‘recession shock’ coming.”

BofA chief investment strategist Michael Hartnett

Amid the gloom, those who study the interplay between sentiment and the economy see the risk of a feedback loop forming. “How people feel today will drive the decisions they make economically,” says Peter Atwater, an adjunct professor of economics at the College of William & Mary, who sees falling consumer confidence as a rising sense of vulnerability. “Inflation is not economic, it’s psychological, and it creates feelings of scarcity that weigh heavily on people’s feelings of certainty and control.” That, in turn, can translate into a pullback in spending, which stokes yet more fears.

This is also a moment for investors to remind themselves not to panic, says Lisa Kramer, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management who studies the interplay between human emotion and markets. “Fear doesn’t drive good decision making,” she says. “If you look at your portfolio every day or multiple times a day, it will just look more volatile.” With that in mind, Prof. Kramer has started to minimize her consumption of market and economic news. (In other words, read this story, but then step away from the screen.)

Could all the recession talk actually be a sign we’re reaching a bottom? After all, when even Cardi B is weighing in on the business cycle, surely that means pessimism is reaching a saturation point. Perhaps, says Mr. Atwater, but the mood in markets still feels more like “impatience rather than capitulation.” For his part, Mr. Grantham argues a bottom won’t come until investors are “terrified” to own stocks.

The bears, meanwhile, continue to accumulate data points they say prove their case: inventory pileups at retailers, weakening corporate profit outlooks, plunging auto sales. And as of Friday, the mood in America reached a devastating new low: The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index fell to 50.8, a level not seen since the gauge was created in the 1950s.

For 46 of those years, until last month, Richard Curtin served as the consumer survey’s director. He took on the job amid one era of rising inflation and geopolitical uncertainty, and now he’s leaving in another.

The good news, he argues, is that consumers are in much better shape financially than they were in the 1980s, having rebuilt their savings during the pandemic. “This is only a pale reflection of the kind of horrendous pain households went through in the early 1980s,” he says. Back then, inflation hit nearly 15 per cent, and massive rate hikes brought on a recession that pushed unemployment to nearly 11 per cent.

But as the U.S. Federal Reserve tries to lower demand, Mr. Curtin believes the outside forces pushing up food and gasoline prices will remain, resulting in a stew of wilting economic activity and rising prices. “If I had to pick the most likely result of all this, it would be stagflation, with a falling job market and uncomfortably high inflation.”

A bear might say he told you so.

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Economy sending mixed signals: Maybe a recession isn't coming – Axios



The job market is strong. Layoffs are happening. Businesses are pessimistic. Consumers are still spending.

  • If you’re having a hard time figuring out this economy, you’re not alone — it’s sending all sorts of mixed signals.

Why it matters: The inflation crisis — namely record gas prices — has plunged consumer sentiment to an all-time low.

  • Meanwhile, the Fed’s bid to wrest control of price spikes by imposing interest-rate hikes is having far-reaching effects.

The big picture: Depending on where you focus your attention, the economy can look nowhere near as bad as some people say — or that we’re heading for a total face-plant:

  • The unemployment rate is only about a point away from an all-time low, but companies like Redfin, Netflix and Coinbase are cutting workers.
  • Business optimism hit the lowest point in the 12 years of JPMorgan Chase’s Business Leaders Outlook Pulse survey, released today. But durable goods orders rose 0.7% in May, according to figures released today, signaling that companies were still spending.
  • Mortgage rates are pricing many buyers out of the housing market — but median home price growth held steady for a third straight week last week.

Reality check: The pandemic triggered a period of profound economic disruption, leaving some of the economic tea leaves harder to read than in past cycles.

  • Much of what seems today like conflicting or inconsistent data could simply be the result of an economy on the brink of change.

What they’re saying: “As people learned to live with COVID-19 and prove resilient so far to higher prices at the checkout stand, economic momentum will likely protect the U.S economy this year,” S&P Global Ratings U.S. chief economist Beth Ann Bovino said Monday in a statement. “What’s around the bend in 2023 is the bigger worry.”

The bottom line: Uncertainty is toxic for investor and consumer sentiment.

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Analysis | What Is the 'Special Debt' China Uses to Spur Its Economy? – The Washington Post



China’s government is cash-strapped with Covid-19, tax breaks and a property downturn pulling down income while spending keeps rising to pay for economic stimulus and containing virus outbreaks. One option Beijing has to fill the gap is to sell special sovereign bonds, a rarely used financing tool it last dusted off in 2020 to help lift the economy without inflating the budget deficit. Before that, they were employed during the Asian financial crisis in the 1990s and to help seed China’s sovereign wealth fund in 2007.

1. What are special sovereign bonds?

Unlike regular government debt, special bonds raise cash for a certain policy or to help solve a particular problem. They are not part of China’s official budget and thus not included in deficit calculations. The State Council, China’s cabinet, can propose the sale of such bonds, which then requires approval only by a standing committee of the National People’s Congress, which generally meets every two months, rather than the full legislative body, which meets only once a year. That means they can be issued in a more flexible way than regular bonds, which have to be planned for in the budget and approved by the annual session of the NPC. 

2. Why use this tool now?

China has a target for gross domestic product growth of around 5.5% for this year, but with Covid lockdowns and a property slump, economists say the government is nowhere close to achieving that. One way President Xi Jinping is hoping to fuel a faster recovery is by spending trillions of yuan on infrastructure projects. Funding that kind of stimulus through the budget will be challenging though, given the plunge in tax revenues this year. Part of the financing will come from China’s state-owned development banks, like China Development Bank and Agricultural Development Bank of China, which have been given an additional 800 billion yuan ($120 billion) credit line to provide loans for infrastructure investment. Special sovereign bonds could be an additional source, given some were used for that purpose in 2020. Wang Yiming, an adviser to the central bank’s monetary policy committee, highlighted special national bonds as an option. More likely, the notes may be used to bridge the fiscal gap and finance the stimulus measures the government announced in May, according to Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. analysts Betty Wang and Xing Zhaopeng.

3. How were these bonds used before?

Some 1 trillion yuan of notes were sold in 2020, early in the pandemic. Exceptionally that time, the Communist Party’s all-powerful Politburo decided to sell the bonds and the NPC gave the official go-ahead at its full session in May. Some 700 billion yuan from that sale was transferred to local governments to support their Covid control efforts and infrastructure investment, according to a report by the Ministry of Finance. The rest was brought into the central government’s general public budget for subsidizing local spending on the outbreak, it shows. Before that: 

• In 2007, 1.55 trillion yuan of special government bonds were issued to capitalize China Investment Corp., the sovereign wealth fund. The bond proceeds were used to buy currency reserves from the People’s Bank of China, and those funds then went to CIC. Some of the bonds worth around 950 billion yuan will come due in the second half of this year, Bloomberg-compiled data show.

• During the Asian financial crisis, China sold 270 billion yuan of special government bonds — at the time the country’s largest bond issue — to raise capital for its big state banks and help offset losses from nonperforming assets.

4. How might the bonds affect financial markets?

A surge of bond supply would drive down prices of the securities and push up yields. The issuance in mid-2020 helped to boost the yield on China’s 10-year government bond by more than 20 basis points in about three weeks, to a near six-month high. At the time, liquidity conditions were tight because of a deluge of local government bond supply before the special debt hit the market and the central bank’s cautious approach to monetary easing, in part to avoid fueling asset bubbles. The situation is different now. Interest rate cuts and other central bank easing measures mean the nation’s banks are flush with cash that they can use to soak up any extra bond supply. Also, local governments — which issue their own special bonds used mainly for infrastructure investment — have been ordered to sell almost all of this year’s quota of 3.65 trillion yuan of debt by the end of June. That should leave room for the market to absorb new debt issuances in the second half of 2022.

5. How much are we talking? 

Jia Kang, a former head of a finance ministry research institute, said the 1 trillion yuan sold in 2020 could serve as a “reference” for policy makers when deciding on how much to issue this year. Others think it might be more. Larry Hu, head of China economics at Macquarie Group Ltd., estimated that the Covid outbreaks this year in China likely caused a budget shortfall of 1 trillion to 2 trillion yuan. A sale that size could contribute 1-2 percentage points to gross domestic product growth given the extra financial boost it will give local governments to spend, he estimated, adding the impact on the financial market is expected to be “limited.”

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©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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Britain's Battered Economy Is Sliding Toward a Breaking Point – BNN



(Bloomberg) — Britain under Prime Minister Boris Johnson is running into the biggest headwinds it’s faced since the 1970s, heaping pain on an economy still reeling from Brexit and the pandemic.

After suffering from unprecedented shocks in recent years, the nation is succumbing to more intractable problems marked by plodding growth, surging inflation and a series of damaging strikes.

The result is a plunge in consumer confidence that analysts warn may lead to a recession. Railway workers walked off the job in anger that their living standards are slipping, and teachers, doctors and barristers may be next.

The malaise is a far cry from the boom and “cool Britannia” reputation that Tony Blair’s government enjoyed through the early part of this century.

The headline figures make grim reading. The economy is on track to shrink in the second quarter, raising the possibility that the UK is already in a recession. Even when the outlook appeared brighter, officials estimated that growth would settle at a below-par 1.8% a year, with no end in sight to the feeble productivity that has blighted the country for over a decade.

While growth is on track to lag most major economies next year, inflation is also on the rise. Consumer prices surged by 9.1% in the year through May, the most for 40 years. 

The Bank of England expects inflation to accelerate again when energy bills are allowed to rise in the autumn, reaching more than 11%. 

It’s a blow for the UK, which led the world in growth after the pandemic, and recalls the dark days of the 1960s and 1970s when commentators and politicians identified Britain as the “sick man of Europe” because of its performance.

Those figures overshadow deeper structural problems hobbling the UK. Chief among them is productivity growth, which slowed to a crawl after the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009. Only Italy put in a worse performance.

How much a worker can produce is important because it drives the long-term potential of the economy. Low productivity limits the pace at which output can grow and depresses wage packets. Real wages took years to recover to their 2007 levels after the financial crash.

An hour of work in the UK generates around $60, according to the OECD. The figure is over $70 in the US and about $67 in France and Germany. Economists and policy makers debate the causes of the malaise but say that fixing it is crucial if Britain is to get out of the slow lane.

The gaps in performance within the UK are equally stark, with London consistently outpeforming other regions, in part due to the concentration of financial services in the capital city. Johnson came to to power in 2019 on a pledge to “level up” poorer parts of the country, but there are few signs that the policy is working.

One explanation for the productivity gap is a lack of investment. British companies spend less on things like plant, machinery and technology than those in most other major economies.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak says the tax system is one of the problems and is working on a way to improve allowances companies can claim for making investments. 

Brexit uncertainty also seems to have unsettled executives, with investment flat-lining since the 2016 public vote to leave the European Union. Had they continued to spend as they did before the referendum, investment would be around 60% higher today.

Life outside the EU has also had an impact on trade as importers and exporters contend with higher trade barriers.  Despite a sharp fall in the pound since the vote, there is little evidence to suggest the external sector has benefited from increased competitiveness. 

Analysis by Bloomberg Economics shows the UK lagged behind the trade performance of other big nations before the pandemic, and has failed to fully share in the global trade rebound since then.

What Bloomberg Economics Says:

“It’s been six years since the UK voted to leave the European Union and more than one since it established a new relationship with its main trading partner. From a 16% devaluation of the pound to an eye-watering slide in trade and investment, Brexit’s impact is plain to see. The data have only reinforced our view that life outside of the EU would leave the UK worse off.”

–Ana Luis Andrade, Bloomberg Economics. Click for the INSIGHT. 

The housing market is another constraint. Prices have risen almost without break since 1995, straining affordabilty for first-time buyers. Properties are in short supply in places like London that’s long been the engine driving the national economy. 

The expense and difficulty of moving limit labor mobility, depriving companies and public services of key workers, and leave consumers channeling more wealth into the property market than their peers abroad.

Housing is the most visible drain on consumers, but wages are lagging too. Real wages adjusted for inflation are now falling at the fastest pace in 20 years. In 2019, wages in the UK trailed far behind those in the US and Canada.

Workers are rebelling, with rail unions embroiled in the biggest work stoppage since 1989 and teachers, doctors and barristers are threatening to walk off the job. 

The strife recalls the 1970s, when Harold Wilson’s Labour government put industry on a three-day week because of an energy crisis and strikes by coal miners.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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