Belfast Telegraph

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Chill wind from the east has potential to infect local economy with a bad cold

By John Simpson

Published 26/08/2015

Two days ago many of us, in an unseen crisis, saw our living standards eroded. The biggest hits went to people saving for pensions or retirement through stock market investments.

In just one day more than 6% was taken out of the value of average stock market savings earmarked for pensions or post-retirement spending.

In total the fall in stock market prices was even worse. Monday was the worst of several recent days when market prices have fallen.

The typical pension fund pot of savings is now about 10% below where it was 10 days ago. Stock market falls are part of the normal hazard for pensions savings, but rarely on the scale of recent days. However, the consequences of the slowdown in the Chinese economy are more far-reaching than the pensions and savings of older workers.

The wider concern is that much of western Europe will be hit by reduced exports to China and this is being enhanced by the unexpectedly large devaluation of the Chinese currency.

Exports to China have just got harder to sell and that difficulty is made worse by an appreciation of the value of sterling so that competitive selling prices to the Chinese market must come down.

The Chinese dimension is serious because China is the second largest world export market. Looking for alternative export markets is now necessary but not easy.

Competition for business in other countries is stronger.

Reassurance that Northern Ireland sales to China are very small is something of an illusion: every extra sales order is worth having.

Northern Ireland is lagging behind the recovery in Britain. GB will now be worried about a slowdown in growth prospects.

Northern Ireland is edging towards a poorer economic performance. Exports may be harder to get and productivity improvements are not in evidence. China has added a new complication to an already complex dilemma.

Belfast Telegraph

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