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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%.
Developments over the last month have heightened our concern about the near-term outlook for households' spending.
Wage growth will be crucial in determining how quickly the MPC raises interest rates this year. So far, it hasn't recovered meaningfully.
The recent deceleration in households' real spending means that either business investment or net exports will have to pickup if the economy is to avoid a severe slowdown this year.
It was widely assumed that the MPC simply would regurgitate its key messages from August in the minutes of September's meeting, released yesterday alongside its unanimous no-change policy decision.
We became more confident last week in our call that GDP growth will hold up better than widely feared in the first half of 2019, following signs that consumers have maintained their happy-go-lucky mentality, despite the ongoing political crisis.
The 1.2% month-to-month fall in retail sales volumes in March undoubtedly was due mostly to the bad weather.
Our view that households will continue to spend more in the first half of this year, preventing the economy from slipping into a capex-led recession, was not seriously challenged yesterday by the BRC's Retail Sales Monitor.
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