Just In Time?

Tony Blair inched home to a historic Labour third term in the UK last week. But looking at the changing tempo of the British economy over the last couple of months, you could be tempted to ask: was this a case of ‘just in time’ electioneering?

At the present time there seems to be a general consensus that Blair will back down during this parliament, and that the natural heir apparent is Economics Minister Gordon Brown. However if Blair won the election despite the Iraq war, and thanks mainly to economic prosperity, we could ask ourselves whether changing winds of fortune might not make the heir rather less apparent when the time for handing over actually comes.
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Housing Review

My out-of-consensus speculation that the Bank of England’s round of interest rate rises may be pretty much done looks sounder by the day. There may be one more rate increase, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they were pretty much over with it, and even if the next move (the end of this year?) wasn’t downwards. The reason? Growing evidence that the UK housing boom is bottoming out, and with this, UK consumption starting to take a hit.

U.K. mortgage lending growth probably slowed in August and consumer confidence may have weakened in September, suggesting economic growth peaked in the second quarter amid rising interest rates, surveys of economists showed……

House prices fell 0.6 percent in August from July, the first drop since August 2002, according to Edinburgh-based HBOS Plc, the U.K.’s largest mortgage lender. It was the biggest decline since December 2000.

Bank of England Governor Mervyn King and his rate-setting committee said they may have underestimated the effect of any decline in home values on consumer spending, according to minutes of the Bank of England’s Sept. 8-9 meeting.

“We’ve just come through a very slow holiday period and there is a general agreement that September is no improvement,” said Richard Hair, president of the National Association of Estate Agents. “We’re getting geared up for what may be a difficult market in the autumn.”
Source: Bloomberg

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