When the clocks jumped forward at 2.00am GMT (1.00am British Summer Time) on Sunday they apparently left winter in their wake, as temperatures soared to a crazy 20 degrees in some parts of sun-swept Britain. Construction workers dusted down their shorts, people whistled as they shone-up their golf clubs and someone in Essex dug out a pair of orange espadrilles.
The Lloyds Bank Business Barometer pushed up to high pressure, registering an increase by 13 points to 15 per cent in March, its highest level in just over a year. Some say this rise in confidence has something to do with a big boat floating again 3,400 miles away, some put it down to fresh hope for foreign holidays in August (come on Porton Down, get your act together with testing for pesky mutants and let us know if the jabbed can jog-on) and some to the imminent arrival of 60 million doses of the Novavax vaccine, made in Britain and good-to-go.
Whatever it is, the net balance for staffing levels has turned positive for the first time since last March, rising by 8 points to 4 per cent, reflecting a higher share of companies expecting to hire and a lower share anticipating reductions. UK companies expect to see strong recoveries in sales in 2021, especially in the domestic market, leading to higher employment levels, some recovery in profits, and modest increases in investment.
There are regional variations, and in the South East, domestic sales are already back to where they were a year ago, with the region being the most optimistic about general business conditions. Businesses in the West Midlands have the strongest expectations for domestic sales in 2021, after a very difficult 2020.
Before winter arrives on Friday we should celebrate the fact that household borrowing dropped by 9 per cent in March, year-on-year, the biggest fall since Marie Antoinette reduced the entire population of France's cake bills with a single phrase. Unsecured lending to consumers fell by an astonishing £1.25 billion last month alone, the seventh consecutive month of decline. This followed a £2.65 billion drop recorded in January.
We're going to be like a nation let out of prison on 12 April, aren't we?