UK economic growth held steady over the last three months: Confederation of British Industry

UK economic growth remained steady in the last three months with weaker performances in some sectors

UK economic growth remained steady in the last three months with weaker performances in some sectors, according to the Confederation of British Industry. Picture: PA - Credit: PA

Economic growth in the UK held steady in the three months to March with businesses expecting the outlook to strengthen, according to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

The growth indicator by the CBI showed a strong performance in the distribution (retail, wholesale and motor trades) as well as consumer sectors, but weaker growth in manufacturing and business services.

The growth review comes as the Office for National Statistics upped its previous reading of GDP growth for the fourth quarter of 2014 from 0.5pc to 0.6pc.

The CBI survey of 764 businesses in the three months to March showed an overall reading of +18pc, little changed on the previous reading in the three months up to February of +19pc.

Katja Hall, CBI deputy director general, said the outlook for the coming year in the UK was encouraging and had been helped by oil prices.

'Our surveys show it's been a solid start to the year with the prospect of stronger growth to come,' she said. 'The benefits of lower oil prices should be increasingly felt, with cheaper petrol boosting households' incomes and spending power, and cutting costs for many businesses.'

Yet Ms Hall said events in the EU market could disadvantage businesses exporting outside the UK.

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'The main risk to the UK economy comes from the Eurozone, with continuing wrangling over Greece's bailout package stoking uncertainty,' she said. 'Plus, many businesses will also have to contend with a stronger pound weighing down on already weak export growth.'

The changed prediction by the Office of National Statistics of growth for the final quarter of 2014 prompted British sterling to reach a temporary high against the euro of 72.62p, it was revealed last week.

Meanwhile, eleven of the 18 sub sectors in manufacturing within the country slowed in growth compared to the three months up to February, the CBI survey showed.

Business and professional services also performed less well than the same period six months ago, with the CBI attributing this to stronger competition in the sector.

Yet businesses expect growth to strengthen, driven in particular by a pick up in professional and consumer services as well as in the manufacturing sector, according to the survey.

Looking ahead, meanwhile, the overall growth expectations for the next three months (April to June) was +25pc, an increase on the 18pc actually recorded in March, said the CBI survey.

These figures still indicate a signficant scaling back of expectations compared with this time last year, added the report.

As part of their economic forecast for 2014 to 2015 last year, the CBI warned that political uncertainty in the run-up to the election was the biggest threat to economic growth, including arbitrary immigration caps and toying with the possibility of leaving the European Union.

The indicator results by the CBI were reported using the balance statistic - the difference between the percentage of business respondents replying 'up' to growth, minus the percentage replying 'down', which is then used in the trend indicator.

The CBI has access overall to 190,000 businesses in the UK and covers about 75pc of the private sector economy.

Has your business experienced growth? Contact business writer Jess Staufenberg on or ring 01603-772531.