Belfast Telegraph

Economy growing but exports hit by strength of pound

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

UK economic growth accelerated in the three months to July but the strength of the pound remained a drag on exporters, according to a survey.

The CBI's latest growth indicator comes days after official figures showed growth bounced back in the second quarter with a reading of 0.7% after a slow start to 2015.

The separate Northern Ireland composite economic index puts the province's economic growth at around 1.6% in the 12 months to March - contrasting with growth of 3% in the UK.

The latest CBI research said the balance of UK firms reporting growth in the past three months minus those seeing declines gave a reading of plus 20%, up from plus 14% in June.

The rebound was largely due to a faster pace of growth in the business and professional services sector, said the CBI, while expansion for manufacturers and retailers was moderate.

Growth is expected to strengthen further in the coming three months, with a balance of 27%, according to the poll of 736 businesses.

Anna Leach, CBI head of economic analysis, said: "A healthy pace of growth puts the economy on a firm footing going into the third quarter and it looks set to stay that way through the rest of this year, as low oil prices and inflation help support spending.

"Business and professional services helped lift the economy in the previous three months as they bounced back from a temporary blip last month.

"But the strength in sterling continues to cause headaches for exporters trying to sell inside the eurozone."

Separate manufacturing data from the CBI earlier this week showed UK factory orders fell to their weakest level in two years this month with export orders in the coming three months expected to also fall, with the weakest reading since October 2011.

Gross domestic product (GDP) figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday showed growth had improved from 0.4% in the first quarter to 0.7% in the April-June period.

Figures from the Northern Ireland composite economic index report growth of 1.1% in the first quarter of the year compared to the previous three months.

UK growth was led by the dominant services sector, representing more than three-quarters of the economy, and also helped by North Sea oil and gas production following Budget tax breaks to support the industry. But manufacturing shrank by 0.3%.

Belfast Telegraph