The Markets


Like guests feeling the first rain drops at a Bank Holiday barbeque, markets responded uncertainly to the GDP and Labour market update last week.

According to the Office of National Statistics Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was unrevised in the first quarter of 2013, growing by 0.3% on the quarter, following a contraction of 0.3% in the final quarter of 2012.

The service sector continued to support growth in the first quarter of 2013, growing by 0.6% and contributing 0.4 percentage points to GDP growth.

These upward contributions were partially offset by construction, which contracted by 2.4% in the first quarter, and had a negative contribution of 0.2 percentage points to overall GDP growth.

UK output remains below that produced before the 2008/09 economic downturn.  Growth in the UK economy has remained broadly flat since the third quarter of 2011, with GDP increasing by 0.4 % over this period. However, the profile of quarterly growth has been volatile, partly due to a number of special factors.

Household final consumption expenditure showed little change for the first quarter of 2013, growing by 0.1%. However, this is its sixth consecutive quarterly increase and the level of household expenditure is now 1.3% higher than in the first quarter of 2012.

On the other hand, in the latest quarter exports and imports continued to decline, contracting by 0.8% and 0.5% respectively. Net trade continued to have a negative contribution to GDP growth, as it did in the previous quarter.

In comparison, the labour market showed some signs of weakening in the first quarter of 2013. Employment decreased by 43,000 between the latest two quarters, while unemployment increased by 15,000 over the same period. Despite this weekly hours increased by 0.3%, recovering their pre-recession peak and reaching a record high level.

Despite the most recent movement of headline figures, the labour market has remained relatively resilient for much of the recession. Compared with the same quarter a year ago, employment has increased by 434,000, unemployment has fallen by 92,000 and total weekly hours have increased by 20.2 million hours.