Brexit shockwaves hit UK consumers, wages and construction - Metro US

Brexit shockwaves hit UK consumers, wages and construction

Shoppers walk past stores on New Bond Street in London, Britain July 9, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo
By Giles Elgood and Costas Pitas

By Giles Elgood and Costas Pitas

LONDON (Reuters) – Shockwaves from Britain’s vote to leave the European Union are reverberating through the economy with surveys published on Thursday showing a sharp dive in consumer confidence and a slowdown in the construction sector.

A month after the Brexit vote, the latest signals of a sharp economic slowdown are likely to add to expectations of action from the Bank of England on Aug. 4 when most economists say it will cut interest rates and might start buying bonds again.

An index of consumer confidence plunged nearly five points to 106.6 in July – matching a fall seen in October 2014 – to touch its lowest level in a monthly survey in three years, polling firm YouGov and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) said.

“The public are still absorbing the EU referendum result but it is clear that consumer confidence has taken a significant and clear dive in the month after the Brexit vote,” Stephen Harmston, Head of YouGov Reports, said.

People are particularly worried about what will happen to the value of their homes, the survey found.

“If homeowners’ fears over their property prices are realized then there could be a very serious impact to both the housing sector and the economy in general,” CEBR director Scott Corfe said.

Economists say spending by consumers offers the best hope that Britain can avoid a Brexit recession. But retailers said ales fell sharply after the referendum, according to a survey published on Wednesday.

In construction, growth in activity slowed after the vote, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said.

Contributors to a RICS survey predicted a 1 percent rise in workloads over the next 12 months, down from growth of 2.8 percent they had foreseen in the first quarter.

Britain’s property market has been one of the worst hit sectors since the referendum with housebuilders seeing their market values plunge while investors pulled out cash from commercial funds, forcing many to be suspended.

Construction firms cut back their forecasts for hiring, mirroring moves by British retailers who reported the fastest fall in full-time equivalent employment in two years in the second quarter, as the referendum approached.

But a survey by the British Retail Consortium showed 93 percent of retailers intended to keep staffing levels unchanged in the next three months compared with 83 percent in the second quarter of last year.

A third survey published on Thursday showed pay awards in Britain stuck in a slow gear.

Median pay settlements in the three months to the end of June were worth 1.8 percent for a third month in a row after a two-year run during which increases of 2 percent had become the norm, according to XpertHR, an online human resources firm.

“It remains to be seen how the uncertainty around the impact of the Brexit vote will feed through to pay settlements, but we are likely to see pay awards remaining subdued for many months to come,” XpertHR’s Sheila Attwood said.

(Writing by Giles Elgood; editing by William Schomberg)

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