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UK economic growth slows – consumers MORE resilient than businesses during Brexit talks

Gross domestic product (GDP) was 0.2 percent in October to December of 2018, marking one of the weakest years since the financial crisis a decade ago. The unrevised figure shows the UK’s GDP grew by 1.4 percent in 2018, compared with 1.8 percent in 2017. GDP last increased by 1.4 percent in 2012 and has not been weaker since 2009, a year after the financial crash. The ONS revised its estimate for July to September up slightly to 0.7 percent, saying the period was boosted the World Cup and warm weather.

The figures were boosted by household consumption levels, which slowed slightly to 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter but increased by 1.8 percent across the year.

This was slower than previous years, primarily due to lower household spending on recreation and culture, as well as transport.

Upward revisions were also made to business investment levels for the fourth quarter, but the measure still fell for four consecutive quarters.

Business investment is now estimated to have fallen by 0.9 percent in the fourth quarter, compared with a previous estimate of 1.4 percent.

Overall business investment in the UK was down 0.4 percent compared with 2017.

Howard Archer, chief economic adviser at EY Item Club, said: “The UK economy changed down to a lower gear in the latter months of 2018 as it was hampered by heightened Brexit uncertainties and weakening global economic activity.

“Businesses reluctance to invest intensified, while the upside for consumer spending seemed limited despite a pick-up in their purchasing power.

“Nevertheless, consumers clearly showed more resilience in the fourth quarter than businesses.”

The data comes on the day the UK had been scheduled to leave the European Union.

Mr Archer said: “If the UK does manage to leave the EU with a deal during the second quarter, we believe that there are the domestic ingredients for a pick-up in growth.

“Nevertheless, we have cut our GDP growth forecast for 2019 to 1.2 percent.

“It comes as a consequence of extended Brexit uncertainties weighing on business activities and investment in particular, as well as weakened global growth.”

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