ICAEW chart of the week: UK monthly GDP

This week’s chart takes a look at the rebound in UK gross domestic product in March 2021, despite the country remaining in lockdown.

Chart showing GDP between Mar 2019 and April 2021: from approximately £195bn a month for the first year, before dipping to just over £145bn in April 2020 and then recovering to around £185bn, then falling to just under £180bn and return to almost £185bn in April 2021 with a monthly increase of +2.1%.

UK GDP jumped 2.1% in March 2021 according to the Office for National Statistics. A positive sign but, as our chart of the week illustrates, there is still a long way to go to get back to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity. 

The #icaewchartoftheweek is on the economy this week, taking a look at how the latest economic statistics from the Office for National Statistics indicate a rebound in GDP in March 2021 even as the country remained in lockdown. This is a positive sign as the UK starts to emerge from the pandemic and people start to return to ‘normality’, albeit a new normal that is likely to be different to what came before.

However, the chart also makes clear how far the UK still has to go to return to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity, with the anticipated square-root shaped recovery stopped in its tracks in the last quarter of 2020 as COVID-19 resurged and restrictions on daily life were reimposed. The 2.1% real-terms growth in GDP in March follows a pattern of ups and downs in recent months with a fall of 2.2% in November, an increase of 1.0% in December, a fall of 2.5% in January, and an increase of 0.7% in February.

With the progress made in combating the virus over the last few months enabling lockdown restrictions to be progressively lifted across the UK, the hope is that March will be the second month on a more sustainable upward curve.

This chart was originally published by ICAEW.

ICAEW chart of the week: Debt to GDP ratio

12 March 2021: This week’s chart illustrates how an expected increase of £1tn of additional public debt between 2020 and 2026 translates into the debt to GDP ratio.

Chart showing public sector net debt increased from £1,798bn (84.4% of GDP) at March 2020 to £2,747bn (109.7%) at March 2024 and £2,804bn (103.8%0 at March 2026.

This week’s #icaewchartoftheweek illustrates how a trillion pounds of extra public debt translates into the debt to GDP ratio. This rises from 84.4% last March to a forecast peak of 109.7% in 2024 before falling to 103.8% in 2026, according to the medium-term economic and fiscal forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) that accompanied the Spring Budget. These forecast a rise in public sector net debt from £1.8tn at 31 March 2020 to £2.8tn at 31 March 2026.

Most of the additional borrowing is expected to occur in the period to March 2024, with £781bn (equivalent to 35.2% of a year’s GDP) borrowed to fund four years of deficits – an estimated £355bn (16.9% of GDP) in the current financial year and forecast deficits of £234bn (10.3% of GDP), £107bn (4.5% of GDP) and £85bn (3.5% of GDP) in 2021-22 through 2023-24 respectively. A further £168bn (7.5% of GDP) is needed over that same period to fund lending and working capital requirements.

Despite borrowing the equivalent of 42.7% of GDP, the debt to GDP ratio is expected to increase by a smaller amount – 25.3% of GDP from 84.4% at 31 March 2020 to 109.7% of GDP at 31 March 2024. This reflects an increase in the denominator for GDP, as a combination of inflation and economic growth ‘inflate away’ the debt by the equivalent of 17.4% over four years. This effect appears quite large, given the annualised growth of 0.7% a year forecast over the four years (comprising a 12% fall during the current financial year followed by growth of 10% in the coming financial year, 5% in 2022-23 and 1.5% in 2023-24) and an average GDP deflator inflation rate of 1.8%, but the magic of compounding, combined with timing differences in the value for GDP used in the calculation all multiply up.

The following two years see the forecast debt to GDP ratio decline to 103.8%. Debt is only expected to increase by £57bn (or 2.2% of GDP) over these two years because lending to businesses during the pandemic is expected to be repaid, reducing the £148bn (5.7% of GDP) needed to fund deficits of £74bn (2.9% of GDP) in 2024-25 and £74bn (2.8% of GDP) in 2025-26 by a net cash inflow of £91bn (3.5% of GDP). As a consequence, the debt to GDP ratio is forecast to drop by 5.9% overall once 8.1% of ‘inflating away’ is taken into account.

As with all forecasts, the reality will be different. A stronger economic recovery would both reduce the need for borrowing and increase the size of GDP at the same time, accelerating the decline in the debt to GDP ratio. A weaker recovery combined with higher spending in response to pressures on public services and/or higher interest rates might do the reverse. Either way, the debt to GDP is likely to remain at a significantly higher level than the pre-financial crisis 34% seen in 2008 for many years, if not decades, to come.

This chart was originally published by ICAEW.

ICAEW chart of the week: CP Trans-Pacific Partnership

12 February 2021: The UK wrote to New Zealand at the start of this month formally requesting permission to apply for membership of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership. What is the CPTPP and what opportunities would joining provide to the UK?

The #icaewchartoftheweek is on the UK’s application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a group of eleven countries on the other side of the world. This trade organisation was established to improve trade links between countries surrounding the Pacific, reducing trade barriers between the countries involved and aligning regulations in areas such as intellectual property. 

It is sometimes described as the third largest free-trade area in the world, after the US-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement (USMCA, formerly NAFTA) and the EU-EEA-Switzerland Common Market, but it is important to understand that it is much less integrated than a customs union (with shared tariffs), a common market (with fuller regulatory alignment) or an economic union (such as the highly integrated EU Single Market with unified standards and regulations). 

According to IMF forecasts for 2021, Japan is the largest economy in the CPTPP with GDP of £3,815bn, while Brunei is the smallest with GDP of £9bn. The other members are Canada (£1,335bn), Australia (£1,125bn), Mexico (£890bn), Malaysia (£280bn), Vietnam (£275bn), Singapore (£270bn), Chile (£220bn), New Zealand (£165bn) and Peru (£150bn). This compares with a forecast of £2,180bn for UK GDP in 2021.

Membership is not exclusive, with CPTPP members involved in a number of other multilateral free trade agreements. Canada and Mexico are also members of USMCA. Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Brunei are members of the 10-nation Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which in turn has free trade agreements with Japan, Australia and New Zealand, China, India and South Korea. Mexico, Peru and Chile are members of the four-nation Pacific Alliance with Columbia. In addition, China is leading the formation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership which includes all of the non-Americas members of the CPTPP in addition to China, South Korea and the other members of ASEAN.

The CPTPP replaced the original proposal for a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that would have included the US, but the remaining nations decided that it was still worthwhile pursuing a revised trade arrangement even after the US withdrew its application four years ago. A new administration could see the USA change its mind and seek to join the CPTPP after all.

Why does the UK want to join a trade pact on the other side of the world? The immediate trade benefits are likely to be relatively modest given the distances involved and which are likely to be secured through bilateral trade agreements already under discussion.

One reason is likely to be geo-political, as membership would strengthen relationships with allies in the Pacific, advancing the UK Government’s ‘global Britain’ agenda. There may also be an advantage in being directly involved in the development of international trade policy in the Pacific region which contains the two largest individual economies in the world (the US and China), potentially influencing trade policy across the planet.

Of course, part of the motivation might be less about trade in the Pacific and more about trade across the Atlantic. After all, if the US were to join the CPTPP, the UK’s membership might provide a base from which to eventually develop a more comprehensive bilateral free trade agreement. This could fulfil a key strategic objective of improving trade ties with the USA by going around the world, albeit in a lot more than 80 days!

This chart was originally published by ICAEW.

ICAEW chart of the week: IMF world economic outlook update

29 January 2021: The UK economy is expected to shrink over the three years from 2020 to 2022, compared with flat growth in the Eurozone, modest growth by the USA and relatively strong growth by China.

The IMF released updated economic forecasts this week, estimating the world economy shrank by 3.5% in 2020 with output projected to increase by 5.5% in 2021 and 4.2% in 2022. World output over the three years is now expected to see an average annualised growth rate of 2.0%.

The UK’s economy has been one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, shrinking by an estimated 10.0% in 2020. Growth prospects are weak, with forecasts of 4.5% and 5.0% in 2021 and 2022 respectively bringing the annualised average growth rate over three years to a negative 0.4%. This contrasts with the 1.4% average growth forecast last year in the Spring Budget 2020, meaning that the UK economy is now projected to be around 4.7% smaller in 2022 than pre-pandemic expectations.

Prospects for the Eurozone countries are also disappointing, with forecast growth in 2021 and 2022 expected to bring their economies back to where they started and substantially below where they might have expected to have been without COVID-19. 

The USA economy appears to be more resilient, with growth in 2021 expected to offset the decline experienced in 2020 by a modest amount, bringing annualised growth over the three years to 1.3%.

In contrast, China expects to see annualised growth of 5.3% as it recovers from much slower than normal growth in 2020 as a consequence of the pandemic. While this is relatively strong compared with most other countries, China itself will consider this to be a relatively modest level of growth compared to the recent past. 

IMF World Economic Outlook Update – summary and selected countries

  2020 2021 2022 Average
 World output (1) -3.5% +5.5% +4.2% +2.0%
 World growth at market exchange rates -3.8% +5.1% +3.8% +1.6%
 Emerging and developing economies -2.4% +6.3% +5.0% +2.9%
 Advanced economies -4.9% +4.3% +3.1% +0.8%
 Eurozone -7.2% +4.2% +3.6% +0.0%
 Argentina -10.4% +4.5% +2.7% -1,3%
 Australia -2.9% +3.5% +2.9% +1.1%
 Brazil -4.5% +3.6% +2.6% +0.5%
 Canada -5.5% +3.6% +4.1% +0.6%
 China +2.3% +8.1% +5.6% +5.3%
 Egypt (2) +3.6% +2.8% +5.5% +4.0%
 France -9.0% +5.5% +4.1% +0.0%
 Germany -5.4% +3.5% +3.1% +0.3%
 India (2) -8.0% +11.5% +6.8% +3.1%
 Indonesia -1.9% +4.8% +6.0% +2.9%
 Iran (2) -1.5% +3.0% +2.0% +1.1%
 Italy -9.2% +3.0% +3.6% -1.1%
 Japan -5.1% +3.1% +2.4% +0.1%
 Kazakhstan -2.7% +3.3% +3.6% +1.4%
 Korea -1.1% +3.1% +2.9% +1.6%
 Malaysia -5.8% +7.0% +6.0% +2.2%
 Mexico -8.5% +4.3% +2.5% -0.7%
 Netherlands -4.1% +3.0% +2.9% +0.5%
 Nigeria -3.2% +1.5% +2.5% +0.3%
 Pakistan (2) -0.4% +1.5% +4.0% +1.7%
 Philippines -9.6% +6.6% +6.5% +0.9%
 Poland -3.4% +2.7% +5.1% +1.4%
 Russia -3.6% +3.0% +3.9% +1.0%
 Saudi Arabia -3.9% +2.6% +4.0% +0.8%
 South Africa -7.5% +2.8% +1.4% -1.2%
 Spain -11.1% +5.9% +4.7% -0.5%
 Thailand -6.6% +2.7% +4.6% +0.1%
 Turkey +1.2% +6.0% +3.5% +3.5%
 UK -10.0% +4.5% +5.0% -0.4%
 USA -3.4% +5.1% +2.5% +1.3%

For more information, read the IMF World Economic Outlook Update.

This chart was originally published by ICAEW.

ICAEW chart of the week: Quarterly GDP

2 October 2020: The latest statistics for the UK economy generate a grim graphic for the #icaewchartoftheweek.

Chart showing GDP by quarter from 2018 Q1 to 2020 Q2: £528bn, £533bn, £539bn, £542bn, £548bn, £551bn, £556bn, £558bn, £556bn, £476bn.

According to latest numbers from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released on 30 September 2020, GDP for the second quarter to June 2020 fell to £476bn, a 14.5% fall in economic activity compared with the previous quarter, which in turn was 0.5% lower than the last quarter of 2019.

This week’s chart not only illustrates the damage done by the coronavirus pandemic to the economy in the first half of 2020, but also highlights how poorly the economy was performing in past couple of years, with seasonally-adjusted GDP increasing by an average of 0.8% a quarter from £528bn in the first quarter of 2018 to £558bn in the fourth quarter of 2019.

These percentage changes do not take account of the effect of inflation, with the ONS reporting a headline fall of 19.8% in real GDP in the second quarter and a 2.5% drop in the first quarter on a chained volume basis (the method used by the statisticians at the ONS to adjust for the effects of changing prices and output levels across the economy). Average quarterly real economic growth in the seven quarters to Q4 2019 was just 0.3% and around half that on a per capita basis.

The two pieces of good news are that the decline in GDP in the second quarter was less steep than originally feared, while we also know that the economy has recovered to a significant extent in the third quarter to 30 September, although we won’t know by how much until the statistics are published in November. Unfortunately, with local lockdowns across the country, the likelihood is that it will be sometime before our lives return to normal.

This chart was originally published on the ICAEW website.

ICAEW chart of the week: A square root-based recovery?

17 July 2020: Debate rages about which symbol to attribute to the shape of the economic recovery.

Chart on OBR Real GDP growth forecast. Shows huge economic hit in the first half of 2020 with potential recovery paths to Q1 2025. Upside scenario returns to previous trend by 2021, central scenario recovers but not fully, and downside is even worse.

The #icaewchartoftheweek is on the economy this week, with the Office for Budget Responsibility indicating that hopes of a sharp V-shaped recovery have receded. Instead, their central scenario is for a square root-based recovery – with economic activity recovering less quickly than originally hoped and not to the same level predicted before the pandemic took hold in the UK.

According to the OBR, quarterly GDP fell from £558bn in the fourth quarter of 2019 to £432bn before inflation in the second quarter of this year, a drop of almost 23% in the level of economic activity. Under the OBR’s central scenario GDP in real-terms is not expected to get back to where it was until the fourth quarter of 2022. At a predicted £584bn (excluding inflation) in the first quarter of 2025, GDP would be 3% lower than where it was predicted to be prior to the pandemic.

The OBR hasn’t completely ruled out a V-shaped recovery as a possibility and their upside scenario would see the economy returning to the previous trend by the second quarter of 2021. However, with job losses starting to accelerate, such a speedy return to trend seems increasingly unlikely.

The good news is that the OBR’s downside scenario, for which no symbol has yet been assigned, is not as shallow as the dreaded U-shaped recovery that some economists are worried about. In the downside scenario, economic activity recovers by the middle of 2024, unlike a U-shaped recovery that might extend into the second half of the 2020s.

In practice, the fortunes of different sectors of the economy are likely to vary, with some suggesting the recovery is more likely to be K-shaped, with some sectors stalling just as others emerge to grow back strongly following the end of the lockdown. The Government will be hoping that the fiscal interventions it has announced to support the hospitality, leisure and housing sectors in particular will help prevent the ‘full K’.

This chart of was originally published by ICAEW.

ICAEW chart of the week: Economic lockdown

19 June 2020: Economic contraction sees monthly GDP per capita decline from £2,790 in February 2020 to £2,100 in April 2020.

UK GDP per person per month - April 2019: £2,740 +£50 = Feb 2020: £2,790 - Mar £160 - Apr £530 = April 2020: £2,100.

The #icaewchartoftheweek is on the economy this week, illustrating how average GDP per person per month increased from £2,740 in April 2019 to £2,790 in February 2020, before contracting sharply in March and April.

The increase of £50 per person in economic activity between April 2019 and February 2020 was predominately driven by inflation, with per capita economic growth of less than 0.4% over the 10 month period. This reflects just how weak the UK economy was immediately before the pandemic.

The modest increase up to February 2020 is dwarfed by the dramatic changes seen as a consequence of the pandemic, with severe curtailments in many parts of the economy leading to a 5.8% fall in economic activity in March and a further 20.4% in April according to provisional numbers from the Office for National Statistics.

Monthly GDP was estimated to be £183bn in April 2019, £187bn in February 2020 and £141bn in April 2020. The population was projected to be just over 66.7m in April 2019, rising to 67.0m by February 2020, before increasing very slightly in March prior to the lockdown and then falling a little in April.

The #icaewchartoftheweek is on the economy this week, illustrating how average GDP per person per month increased from £2,740 in April 2019 to £2,790 in February 2020, before contracting sharply in March and April.

The increase of £50 per person in economic activity between April 2019 and February 2020 was predominately driven by inflation, with per capita economic growth of less than 0.4% over the 10 month period. This reflects just how weak the UK economy was immediately before the pandemic.

The modest increase up to February 2020 is dwarfed by the dramatic changes seen as a consequence of the pandemic, with severe curtailments in many parts of the economy leading to a 5.8% fall in economic activity in March and a further 20.4% in April according to provisional numbers from the Office for National Statistics.

Monthly GDP was estimated to be £183bn in April 2019, £187bn in February 2020 and £141bn in April 2020. The population was projected to be just over 66.7m in April 2019, rising to 67.0m by February 2020, before increasing very slightly in March prior to the lockdown and then falling a little in April.

The dramatic transformation in the UK economy wrought by the lockdown is now extremely visible in the statistics, but it will take some time for the post-lockdown economic position to emerge in order to be able to see how much permanent damage has been done.

This article was originally published by ICAEW.