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Chief U.K. Economist Samuel Tombs on U.K. Bank of England Interest Rates
We expect August's consumer price figures, released on Wednesday, to show that CPI inflation declined to 2.4%, from 2.5% in July, matching the consensus and the Bank of England's forecast.
We expect June's consumer prices report, released on Wednesday, to show that CPI inflation increased to 2.7%, from 2.4% in May, above the consensus, 2.6%, and the Bank of England's forecast, 2.5%.
With campaigning for the general election intensifying last week, it was unsurprising that October's money and credit release from the Bank of England received virtually no media or market attention.
The Bank of England will be dragged into the political arena on Thursday, when it sends the Treasury Committee its analysis of the economic impact of the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration, as well as a no-deal, no- transition outcome.
All seven of Britain's major banks passed the Bank of England's stress test this year, in the first clean sweep since the annual test began in 2014.
January's CPI inflation of 1.8%, up from 1.6% in December, was one-tenth lower than anticipated by the consensus, the Bank of England and ourselves. The undershoot, however, was entirely due to a pull-back in clothing inflation which is unlikely to be sustained. Price pressures across the rest of the economy have continued to intensify, suggesting that CPI inflation still is on course greatly to exceed the 2% target later this year.
The Bank of England issued a statement yesterday that it is "working closely with HM Treasury and the FCA--as well as our international partners--to ensure all necessary steps are taken to protect financial and monetary stability".
Markets currently judge that U.K. interest rates will rise about six months after the first Fed hike. But the Bank of England seldom lagged this far behind in the past. Admittedly, the slowdown in the domestic economy that we expect will require the Monetary Policy Committee to be cautious. But wage and exchange rate pressures are likely to mean six months is the maximum period the MPC can wait before following the Fed's lead.
The Bank of England won't set markets alight today. We expect another 9-0 vote to leave rates unchanged at 0.25%, and to continue with the £50B of gilt purchases and $10B of corporate bond purchases announced in August. This is not to say, though, that everything is plain sailing for the Monetary Policy Committee.
British households are back to their old ways and are piling on debt again. With borrowing costs still falling, consumer confidence high and banks willing to lend, indebtedness will only increase unless the Bank of England acts.
The government last week fired the starting gun for the contest to replace Mark Carney as Governor of the Bank of England.
The unexpected rise in CPI inflation to 2.1% in July--well above the Bank of England's 1.8% forecast and the 1.9% consensus--from 2.0% in June undermines the case for expecting the MPC to cut Bank Rate, in the event that a no-deal Brexit is avoided.
Gilt yields have been remarkably stable following their decline in response to the Bank of England's Inflation Report in February. The average 60-day price volatility of gilts with outstanding maturities of greater than one year has fallen back recently to lows last seen in 2014, as our first chart shows.
Chief U.K. Economist Samuel Tombs on U.K. employment
Figures yesterday from U.K. Finance--the new trade body that has subsumed the British Bankers' Association--showed that the mortgage market recovered over the summer.
We're revising down our forecast for quarteron-quarter GDP growth in Q3 to 0.3%, from 0.4%, in response to signs that the rebound in industrial production is shaping up to b e smaller than we had anticipated.
June's surge in retail sales is not a sign that households' total spending is zipping back to pre- downturn levels.
The squeeze on real wages has just ended and GfK's consumer confidence index hit a 11-month high in March.
Sterling has appreciated sharply over the last two weeks and yesterday briefly touched its highest level against the euro since May 2017.
Wage growth will be crucial in determining how quickly the MPC raises interest rates this year. So far, it hasn't recovered meaningfully.
Mortgage approvals by the main high street banks rose to a four-month high of 39.7K in October, from 38.7K in September, according to trade body U.K. Finance.
All eyes today will be on the core PCE deflator for August, which we think probably rose by a solid 0.2%.
Surveys released yesterday failed to support the MPC's view that the economy has bounced back in Q2.
The U.K.'s balance of payments leaves little room for doubt that sterling would sink like a stone in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Both the E.U. and the U.K. government have been keen to emphasise, since the Withdrawal Agreement was provisionally signed off, that March 29 is a hard deadline for Brexit.
Growth in households' disposable incomes has been supported in recent years by falling debt servicing costs. The proportion of households' incomes absorbed by interest payments fell to a record low of 4.5% in Q4 last year, down from 4.7% a year ago and a peak of 10% in 2008.
The estimate of services output for the first month of the current quarter usually gets lost among the deluge of national accounts and balance of payments data released for the previous quarter.
The MPC's hawks are framing the interest rate increase they want as a "withdrawal of part of the stimulus that the Committee had injected in August last year", arguing that monetary policy still would be "very supportive" if rates rose to 0.5%, from 0.25%.
The national accounts, released today, likely will restate that quarter-on-quarter GDP growth held steady at 0.4% in Q4.
The risk posed by consumer borrowing was once again the focus of the Financial Policy Committee's discussion last week.
The recent pick-up in mortgage approvals is another sign that households are unperturbed by the risk of a no-deal Brexit.
This week's GDP figures showed that firms invested only sparingly in 2016, but their financial fortunes have been bolstered by a recovery in profits. The gross operating surplus of all firms rose by 4.5% quarter-on-quarter in Q4, the biggest increase for 11 quarters. This pushed the share of GDP absorbed by profits up to 21.3%, just above its 60-year average of 21.2%.
The steady decline in mortgage rates since the financial crisis has helped to underpin strong growth in household spending. Existing borrowers have been able to refinance loans at ever-lower interest rates, while the proportion of first-time buyers' incomes absorbed by interest and capital payments has declined to a record low. As a result, the proportion of annual household incomes taken up by interest payments has fallen to 4.6%, from a peak of 10% in 2008.
At the halfway mark of the fiscal year, public borrowing has been significantly lower than the OBR forecast in the March Budget.
CPI inflation rose only to 2.1% in April, from 1.9% in March, undershooting the 2.2% consensus and MPC forecasts, as well as our own 2.3% estimate.
Whether the economy enters recession will hinge more on corporate behaviour than on consumers. Household spending accounts for about two thirds of GDP, but it is a relatively stable component of demand. By contrast, business investment and inventories--which are often overlooked--are prone to wild swings.
Sterling will be under the spotlight again today when four members of the Monetary Policy Committee, including Governor Mark Carney, answer questions from the Treasury Select Committee about the recent Inflation Report.
After pricing-in the consequences of sterling's depreciation for inflation last year only slowly, markets are at risk of costly inertia again.
Last week's balance of payments showed that the U.K. has made significant progress in reducing its reliance on overseas finance.
House purchase mortgage approvals by the main high street banks continued to recover in June, rising to a nine-month high of 40.5K, from 39.5K in May. June approvals, however, merely matched their postreferendum average, and the chances of a more substantial recovery are slim.
We think that the higher inflation outlook means that the MPC will dash hopes of unconventional stimulus on August 4 and instead will opt only to cut Bank Rate to 0.25%, from 0.50% currently. The minutes of July's MPC meeting show, however, that the MPC is mulling all the options. As a result, it is worth reviewing how a QE programme might be designed and what impact it might have on bond yields.
Mortgage approvals by the main high street banks dropped to a five-month low of 38.5K in September, from 39.2K in August, according to trade body U.K.Finance.
We expect the second estimate of Q1 GDP, released today, to restate that quarter-on-quarter growth slowed to just 0.3%, from 0.7% in Q4. The second estimate of growth rarely is different to the first.
Last week's news that the composite PMI collapsed to 47.7 in July--its lowest level since April 2009--from 52.4 in June is the first clear indication that the U.K. is heading for a recession.
Financial markets' inflation expectations have risen sharply since the spring. Our first chart shows that the two-year forward rate derived from RPI inflation swaps has picked up to 3.8%, from 3.5% at the end of April.
This was supposed to be the year that wage growth finally would pick up and signal clearly to the MPC that the economy needs higher interest rates.
Households' willingness to save a smaller fraction of their incomes goes a long way to explaining why the U.K. economy hasn't lost too much momentum since the Brexit vote.
If the Chancellor is true to his word, Wednesday's Budget will be a pedestrian affair with few major policy changes designed to prevent the economy from slowing this year. In an article in The Sunday Times, Philip Hammond asserted that "we cannot take our foot off the pedal" in the mission to eliminate the budget deficit by the end of the next parliament.
The Chancellor will struggle to make his Spring Statement heard on March 13 over the noise of next week's key Brexit votes in parliament, likely spanning from March 12 to 14.
Make no mistake, business investment has been depressed by Brexit uncertainty over the last year.
Chancellor Sunak faces a tough first gig on Wednesday, when he delivers the long-awaited Budget.
Barclays hit the headlines yesterday with an announcement that it is bringing back no-deposit mortgages for first-time buyers and raising its maximum loan-to-income ratio for borrowers with an income of more than £50K to 5.5, from 4.4. With other lenders likely to follow suit and the supply of homes for sale still extremely low, house price inflation likely will remain brisk this year.
Speculation mounted yesterday that the MPC will follow the U.S. Fed and cut interest rates before its next meeting on March 26.
Activity surveys picked up across the board in April, offering hope that the slowdown in GDP growth--to just 0.3% quarter-on-quarter in Q1-- will be just a blip. The headline indicators of surveys from the CBI, European Commission, Lloyds Bank and Markit all improved in April and all exceeded their 2004-to-2016 averages.
Net trade has been a major drag on the economy's growth rate in recent quarters, and February's trade figures, released today, are likely to signal another dismal performance in the first quarter.
Friday's GDP report should show that the economy narrowly avoided contracting in Q2.
Mortgage lender Halifax reported yesterday that the rate of increase in house prices has picked up since the summer.
We're among a small minority of economists forecasting that GDP rose by 0.1% month-to-month in March.
The Chancellor's Budget today looks set to prioritise retaining scope to loosen policy if the economy struggles in future, rather than reducing the near-term fiscal tightening. In November, the OBR predicted that cyclically-adjusted borrowing would fall to 0.8% of GDP in 2019/20, comfortably below the 2% limit stipulated by the Chancellor's new fiscal rules.
Odds-on, the consensus forecast for May's GDP report, released on Wednesday, will miss the mark.
The MPC's interest rate cut in August, and the continued willingness of banks to lend, bolstered the housing market immediately after the referendum. But the latest indicators suggest that the market is slowing again, as the financial pressures on households' incomes intensify.
Business investment held up surprisingly well last year.
The slowdown in quarter-on-quarter growth in households' real spending to 0.4% in Q1--just half 2016's average rate--was driven entirely by a 0.1% fall in purchases of goods. Households' spending on services, by contrast, continued to grow briskly. Indeed, the 0.8% quarter-on-quarter rise in households' real spending on services exceeded 2016's average 0.5% rate.
Private non-financial corporations' profits have held up well over the last two years, despite the net negative impact of sterling's depreciation and modest increases in Bank Rate.
Further political wrangling yesterday distracted from data showing that the risk of no -deal Brexit is placing increasing strain on the economy.
October's money data show that households and firms have regained the appetite for borrowing that they lost immediately after the referendum. But the recent rise in swap rates and the deterioration in consumers' confidence likely will cut short the revival in consumer lending, while persistent Brexit uncertainty likely will continue to subdue firms' investment intentions.
February's money and credit figures supported recent labour market and retail sales data suggesting that consumers are increasingly financially strained. Households' broad money holdings increased by just 0.2% month-to-month in February, half the average pace of the previous six months.
The alarming pace at which the Government is marching towards the Brexit cliff edge still shows no sign of instilling panic among households or firms.
U.K. manufacturers are benefiting from rapid growth in the Eurozone, but increasingly they are being held back by weak domestic demand.
News that the U.K.'s departure from the E.U. has been delayed by six months, unless MPs ratify the existing deal sooner, appears to have done little to revive confidence among businesses.
December's money data likely will bring further signs that the U.K. economy's growth spurt late last year was paid for with unsecured borrowing. Retail sales fell by 1.9% month-to-month in December, so we doubt that unsecured borrowing will match November's £1.7B increase, which was the biggest since March 2005.
Yesterday's public finance figures showed that the public sector, excluding public sector banks, ran a surplus of £0.2B in July, a modest improvement on borrowing of £0.4B a year ago.
The MPC won't stand idly by on Thursday, despite having moved decisively to support the economy in March.
The Budget on March 11 will be the first time that the new government's ambition and bluster collide with reality.
We are revising down our forecasts for quarteron-quarter GDP growth in Q1 and Q2 to 0.3% and 0.2%, respectively, from 0.4% in both quarters previously, to account for the likely impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
Investors have concluded from June's Markit/CIPS PMIs and Governor Carney's speech on Tuesday that the chance of the MPC cutting Bank Rate before the end of this year now is about 50%, rising to 55% by the time of Mr. Carney's final meeting at the end of January.
Growth in the broad money supply slowed further in September, providing more evidence that the economy is losing momentum.
A cluster of surveys suggest that the manufacturing sector finished 2016 with a flourish, after a dismal performance for most of the year. But momentum will drain away from the sector's recovery in 2017, as higher oil prices make low value-added work unprofitable again and resurgent inflation causes domestic consumer demand to crumble.
Most of the time, sterling broadly tracks a path implied by the difference between markets' expectations for interest rates in the U.K. and overseas. During the financial crisis, however, sterling fell much further than interest rate differentials implied, as our first chart shows.
October's surprise jump in public borrowing is not a material setback for the Chancellor, who will stick to his new Budget plans for modest fiscal stimulus next year.
Mark Carney emphasised in his Mansion House speech last month that he wants wage growth to "begin to firm" from recent "anaemic" rates before voting to raise interest rates.
The Q1 GDP figures, released on Wednesday, likely will show that the quarter-on-quarter decline in economic activity eclipsed the biggest decline in the 2008-to-09 recession--2.1% in Q4 2008--even though the U.K. went into lockdown towards the very end of the quarter.
Public borrowing was below consensus expectations in August, fuelling speculation that the Chancellor might pare back the remaining fiscal tightening in the Autumn Budget on November 22.
Our suggestion that the ECB could still raise the deposit rate later this year, by 20bp to -0.4%, has met with strong scepticism in recent conversations with readers.
A cursory glance at July's labour market report gives no cause for alarm. The headline, three-month average, unemployment rate returned to 3.8% in July, after edging up to 3.9% in June.
Markets rightly interpreted yesterday's above consensus GDP report as having little impact on the outlook for monetary policy.
January's consumer price report, released today, likely will show that CPI inflation jumped to 1.9%--its highest rate since June 2014--from 1.6% in December. Inflation will continue to take big upward steps over the coming months, as retailers pass on to consumers large increase in import prices and energy companies increase tariffs.
After the first round of voting by Tory MPs, Boris Johnson remains the clear favourite to be the next Prime Minister.
July's retail sales figures--the first official data for Q3--provided a reassuring signal that consumers can be counted on to drive the economy as the Brexit deadline nears.
Official industrial production growth in China plunged to 5.4% year-over-year in April, from 8.5% in March.
The Mortgage Lenders and Administrators Return for Q4, published on Tuesday, suggests that the fall in households' real incomes last year has not led to a deterioration in lenders' mortgage books.
The slowdown in households' income growth since the referendum has not pushed up mortgage default rates, so far. Employment grew by just 0.2% quarter-on-quarter in Q3 and 0.1% in Q4, well below the 0.5% average rate seen in the three years before the referendum.
The MPC surprised nobody yesterday by voting unanimously to keep Bank Rate at 0.75% and to maintain the stocks of gilt and corporate bond purchases at £435B and £10B, respectively.
If sustained, sterling's recent depreciation looks set to drive CPI inflation up to about 3.5% by the end of next year.
After wobbling immediately after the referendum, house prices appear to be back on a rising trajectory. The Halifax measure of house prices, which is based on the lenders' mortgage offers, rose by 1.4% month-to-month in October, following a 0.3% increase in September.
The U.K.'s still-large current account deficit makes us nervous that sterling will need to depreciate further over the medium-term and would collapse if Brexit talks fail, causing international investors to take flight.
Surveys released over the last week have suggested that the housing market might be past the worst.
The latest national accounts show that the economy is holding up much better in the face of heightened Brexit uncertainty than previously thought.
The Office for Budget Responsibility has decided to press ahead with the publication of new fiscal forecasts on November 7, despite the government's decision to postpone the Budget until after the next election.
We're inclined to place little weight on July's E.C. Economic Sentiment Survey, which showed that consumers' confidence has picked up to its highest level since October 2016; see our first chart.
The German manufacturing sector is showing signs of stabilisation with industrial production rising 0.2% month-on-month in October, equivalent to 0.8% year-over- year. This is consistent with a decent retracement in production this quarter, but growth is still only barely above zero.
Business investment has held up better than most economists--ourselves included--expected after the Brexit vote.
We expect June's GDP data, released on Wednesday, to show that the economic recovery gathered momentum in June, having got off to a faltering start in May.
The economy looks to be in better shape following May's GDP report than widely feared.
We remain confident in the success of legislation designed to compel the PM to request a further extension of the U.K.'s E.U. membership on October 19, in the overwhelmingly likely scenario that an exit deal is not agreed at next week's E.U. Council meeting.
Unsurprisingly, cross-party Brexit talks are not going well.
The pound can't get a break. Sterling fell to just $1.24 yesterday, its lowest level against the dollar since March 2017, bar the momentary "flash crash" in January.
Equity prices for U.K. retailers have performed woefully since the E.U. referendum. The FTSE All-Share Index for general retailers has underperformed the overall All-Share Index by nearly 30% since the Brexit vote.
Investors likely will be caught out by the extent to which gilt yields rise this year. Forward rates imply that the 10-year spot rate will rise by a mere 20bp to just 1.45% by the end of 2018. By contrast, we see scope for 10-year yields to climb to 1.60% by the end of this year.
April's consumer price figures, due on Wednesday, are set to show that CPI inflation has fallen, primarily due to the earlier timing of Easter this year than last. We
Retail sales increased by 1.0% month-to-month in August, exceeding our no-change forecast and spurring markets to price-in a 65% chance that the MPC will raise interest rates at its next meeting on November 2, up from 60% beforehand.
The MPC's unanimous decision to keep Bank Rate at 0.75% and the minutes of its meeting left little impression on markets, which still see a higher chance of the MPC cutting Bank Rate within the next 12 months than raising it.
With a no-deal Brexit still a potential outcome and just over five weeks to go until the U.K. is scheduled to leave, it's about time we put some numbers on how high inflation could get in this worst-case scenario.
The third quarter national accounts, due to be published on Friday, likely will not alter the picture of economic resilience immediately after the referendum. The latest estimate of GDP growth often is revised in this release, but revisions have not exceeded 0.1 percentage points in either direction in the last four years, as our first chart shows.
The latest public finance figures continue to imply that the Chancellor will be able to change course later this year in the Autumn Budget so that fiscal policy doesn't drag on GDP growth next year.
The stand-out news yesterday was the increase in the headline, three-month average, unemployment rate to 4.4% in December, from 4.3% in September.
Even the most bullish estate agent in Britain would struggle to put a positive spin on the latest housing market news. The latest levels of the official, Nationwide, and Halifax measures of house prices all are below their peaks.
The Chancellor probably can't believe his luck. Public borrowing has continued to fall this year at a much faster rate than anticipated by the OBR, despite the sluggish economy.
Today's labour market figures look set to show that wage growth has continued to slow, fuelling speculation that interest rates are going nowhere soon. But a close examination of why wage growth has weakened suggests investors will be surprised by a robust rebound later this year.
The intensity of the pressure on households' finances was highlighted last week by December's retail sales report, which showed that volumes fell by 1.5% month-to-month, the most since June 2016.
After a disappointing run of monthly data, the huge surplus on the main "PSNB ex ." measure of borrowing in January must have been greeted with relief at the Treasury.
After soaring in the Spring, inflation has slipped back in the Summer. July's consumer prices report, released while we were away last week, showed that CPI inflation held steady at 2.6% in July, one -tenth below the consensus and three tenths below May's year-to-date peak.
Soon after last week's vote to keep Bank Rate at 0.50%, the MPC's doves were quick to assert that monetary easing is still imminent. A speech by Andy Haldane, published on July 15, called for "... a package of mutually complementary monetary policy easing measures" that should be "delivered promptly and muscularly". Meanwhile, Gertjan Vlieghe, who was alone in voting for a rate cut in July, wrote in The Financial Times last week that he also favours "a package of additional measures" in August.
The most striking aspect of yesterday's labour market report was the pick-up in the headline three month average year-over-year growth rate of average weekly wages, to a 14-month high of 2.8% in November, from 2.6% in October. Although still low by pre-recession standards, wage growth now is close to the rate that might worry the MPC.
Chancellor Sunak announced further emergency support measures for the economy on Tuesday and pledged to do more soon.
October's retail sales figures confirm that consumers have adopted a more cautious mindset since the summer, when retail sales increased at a faster rate than incomes.
The minutes of March's MPC meeting were more newsworthy than we--and the markets--expected. Kristin Forbes broke ranks and voted to raise Bank Rate to 0.50%, from 0.25%.
Retail sales fell sharply in September, highlighting that consumers still are spending only cautiously amid high economic uncertainty and falling real wages.
Retail sales fell back to earth in September, indicating that the pick-up in spending over the summer largely was a weather-related blip.
June's retail sales figures provided a timely reminder that consumers aren't being haunted by the warnings of the damage that a no -deal Brexit would entail.
The manufacturing sector appears to have started the new year on a weaker note. The Markit/CIPS manufacturing PMI dropped to 55.3 in January--its lowest level since June--from 56.2 in December.
June's 0.5% month-to-month fall in retail sales volumes does little to change the picture of recent strength.
The March money and credit figures provide more evidence that the economy's weak start to the year won't be just a blip.
The MPC likely will raise interest rates today, but as we explained here, it probably will revise down its medium-term inflation forecast, signalling that it is content with the further 35bp tightening currently priced-in by markets for 2018.
Investors moved rapidly last week to price-in renewed easing by central banks around the world, in response to the rapid growth in coronavirus cases outside China and the resulting sell-off in equity markets.
Samuel Tombs on U.K. House Prices
Speculation has grown that the Bank of England will announce measures today to calm the recent strong growth in consumer credit, when it publishes its bi-annual Financial Stability Report.
The resilience of the banking system will be in focus today when the results of this year's Bank of England stress test are published alongside its Financial Stability Report.
Today's tentative reopening of schools in England marks the biggest step forward for the economy since the lockdown was imposed on March 23.
The Bank of England's stress tests highlighted that banks have made further progress in strengthening their balance sheets over the last year. But while banks have retreated from taking risk onto their balance sheets, others have stepped in to fill the void.
Even an ardent Brexiteer could not deny that uncertainty about the outcome of the E.U. referendum is subduing bank lending. The Bank of England's preferred measure of bank lending--M4 lending excluding intermediate other financial corporations, or OFCs--fell by 0.1% month-to-month in April.
The health of the banking system will be under the spotlight on Wednesday, when the Bank of England publishes the results of its 2016 bank stress tests and its biannual Financial Stability Report.
Predictably, the Bank of England's estimate that GDP would plunge by 8% in the first year after a disorderly no-deal, no transition Brexit and that interest rates would need to rise to 5.5% to contain inflation grabbed the headlines yesterday.
Governor Bailey signalled a potential shift in the Bank of England's approach to withdrawing monetary stimulus--whenever the time comes--last month in an article for Bloomberg Opinion.
The summer usually is a quiet time for business, but seemingly not for CFOs this year. Yesterday's money and credit figures from the Bank of England showed that borrowing by private non-financial corporations has rocketed. Net finance raised by PNFC's from all sources increased by £8.9B in July, compared to an average increase of just £2.5B in the previous 12 months.
The resilience of the U.K. financial system will be in focus this week. On Tuesday, the Bank of England's Prudential Regulation Authority, the PRA, will publish the results of stress tests of the U.K.'s seven largest banks. Concurrently, the Bank's Financial Policy Committee, the FPC, will publish its semi-annual Financial Stability Report and announce whether it will deploy any of its macroprudential tools.
Chief U.K. Economist Samuel Tombs on U.K Inflation
Chief U.K. Economist Samuel Tombs on U.K. Inflation
Chief U.K. Economist Samuel Tombs on Pay Growth and Unemployment
Chief U.K. Economist Samuel Tombs on U.K. Inflation
Chief U.K. Economist Samuel Tombs on U.K. Manufacturing
Chief Eurozone Economist Claus Vistesen on the latest data from the Eurozone
Samuel Tombs discussing U.K. Inflation
Chief U.K. Economist Samuel Tombs on U.K. Inflation
Ian Shepherdson on the U.K
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