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May would revive Board of Trade
Theresa May plans to set up a network of nine trade commissioners across the world to boost trade after Brexit. The Conservative Party said they would be part of a new Board of Trade to help exports and attract foreign investment. The UK’s first Board of Trade has its roots in the 17th Century and through several transformations became the Department of Trade and Industry. The Conservatives said the commissioners “will be based overseas in nine different regions, determined by markets rather than national borders, to ensure UK trade policy is guided by local experience and expertise”. The nine regions were not disclosed.
EY report: Scottish economy ‘stuck in slow lane’
Scotland’s economy is showing signs of slowing faster than the rest of the UK as consumer spending fades and firms remain reluctant to invest, according to a report. The EY Scottish Item Club has predicted “below-par” GDP growth of 0.9% in 2017 – half of that expected for the UK. It suggested the retail sector would be worst hit by “mounting pressure” on consumers. Employment in Scotland is also forecast to continue to fall this year. In 2017, it is expected to drop by 0.1%, followed by further decreases of 0.5% and 0.3% in 2018 and 2019 respectively. However, manufacturing output is predicted to grow in line with the overall economy for the first time since 2013, as weaker sterling and a pick-up in global demand “ultimately provide a boost to exports”.
‘Dirty diesel’ car sales fall by a fifth
Sales of diesel cars have plummeted by a fifth in 12 months, prompting claims that the fuel is in terminal decline across the UK. Figures from the motor industry show that 20,000 fewer new diesels were sold in May than in the same month last year. In all, diesel sales stood at 81,489. Total sales of all new cars were also down in May — a drop of 8.5 per cent compared with 2016 — although the decline was driven entirely by the drop in demand for diesels. By comparison, sales of petrol and green cars actually rose last month. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) insisted that the decline was a reflection of consumer uncertainty before the general election. However, analysts said it was proof that restrictions on the use of diesels in the biggest cities were having a serious impact on the car-buying public.
Demand for staff rises as availability falls at quickest pace since 2015
Demand for staff is at its highest level in 21 months as the number of people seeking jobs has fallen to a near-two-year low. According to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, demand for permanent and temporary staff rose in May as availability dropped at its quickest pace since August 2015. With demand for workers increasing and supply shrinking, average starting salaries for permanent posts increased at the fastest rate in three months. Although the survey echoed official data showing that joblessness is at its lowest in 42 years and employment at a record high, it contradicted official pay figures suggesting that earnings are as weak as they have been in a year.
Italy leaves Britain in slow lane
Britain grew at the slowest pace of any of the world’s advanced economies in the first three months of the year, after official figures showed that the Italian economy had expanded by 0.4% in the first quarter, up from an initial estimate of 0.2%. the disappointing performance has been attributed to a fall in household spending after the UK recorded the biggest quarterly fall in retail sales.
UK households cut back as Brexit effect on pound hits living costs
British households are cutting back as the Brexit effect on the pound continues to raise living costs, according to a clutch of reports that show shops, car dealerships and other consumer-facing businesses coming under pressure last month. Uncertainty about the outcome of Thursday’selection was also cited as a factor as the reports showed a drop in retail sales, a slowdown for the vast services sector and a fall in new car sales last month. Figures from the British Retail Consortium released on Tuesday showed that after an Easter-related bounce in April sales fell again in May, by 0.4% on a like-for-like basis from a year earlier. Taking less volatile figures for the last three months together, food sales rose but non-food sales were down.
Oil market reels over Qatar diplomatic row
Global oil and gas markets were plunged into uncertainty on Monday after a diplomatic row erupted between the Gulf region’s most powerful energy states. Saudi Arabia and its allies have cut off diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar, a major investor in the UK and the world’s biggest supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG), spurring a 7pc sell-off on the Qatar stock exchange. Global crude prices initially rebounded from Friday’s lows to climb above $50 a barrel, a key psychological level for the market. But prices collapsed again amid concern that the rift between the Middle Eastern neighbours could spell trouble for Opec’s plan to rid the global market of a chronic oversupply of crude, which has held prices down since 2014. Qatar agreed to cut its crude production by around 30,000 barrels of oil a day as part of the agreement late last year but its willingness to comply with the supply cuts could wane in the face of a diplomatic dispute with its neighbours.
UK consumer stumbles in May as surveys show spending squeezed
British shoppers kept a tighter grip on their credit cards last month as they felt growing pressure from rising inflation, new figures showed just two days before they vote on whether to keep Prime Minister Theresa May in power. With record numbers of people in work and public borrowing more manageable, the economy has played a smaller role in this election campaign than in 2010 and 2015, though the opposition Labour Party has stressed a growing squeeze on living standards. Official data for the first three months of 2017 showed that retail sales volumes fell by their most since 2010, and Tuesday’s figures from the British Retail Consortium and Barclaycard point to further weakness.
Oil slips on worries Mideast rift could undermine OPEC cuts
Oil prices fell further below $50 a barrel on Tuesday on concerns that a diplomatic rift between Qatar and several Arab states including Saudi Arabia could undermine efforts by OPEC to tighten the market. Benchmark Brent crude oil LCOc1 was 15 cents a barrel lower at $49.32 by 0755 GMT, down around 8 percent from the open of futures trading on May 25, when an OPEC-led policy to cut oil output was extended into the first quarter of 2018.
U.S. light crude CLc1 was down 15 cents at $47.25. Leading Arab powers including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates cut ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of support for Islamist militants and Iran.