Belfast Telegraph

PwC's artificial intelligence forecaster predicts sluggish UK growth

The UK economy will pick up pace in the second quarter but fall short of levels seen in the final three months of last year, according to PwC's robo-economist.

The professional services firm's artificial intelligence (AI) platform - or "nowcaster" - has predicted gross domestic product (GDP) to hit 0.3% between April and June.

That would be an improvement on the beginning of the year when GDP slumped to 0.2%, down from 0.7% for the final three months of 2016.

John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC, said the prediction factored in a stronger quarter-on-quarter performance from retail sales being offset by slower growth from transport, industrial production and construction.

He said: "There is no way to predict GDP growth with perfect accuracy, but our new nowcasting model, using the latest AI machine-learning techniques to augment human judgment, has performed well in tests using data for the past four years.

"It allows us to look at a very broad range of explanatory variables to estimate how fast the economy is growing several weeks ahead of official preliminary estimates being published by the ONS (Office for National Statistics).

"The model allows for rapid updating of GDP estimates over time, but at present it points to continued sluggish UK growth of only around 0.3% in the second quarter."

PwC said its AI model had a success rate of 94% over a four-year testing period, making it more accurate than the widely used Reuters Poll and close to matching official figures published by the ONS.

The firm has previously said the nowcaster still needs "input and judgment" from human economists to identify problems, select the best models and interpret the results.

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