"What would you rather? Be Jeremy Hunt for a day, or put your right hand in a blender?"
"What was the second option again?"
What must it be like to be one of the least envied people on the planet? The NTI newsroom understand that Jeremy's door is open to all views and opinions, ahead of his first spring budget next week, and his Mum has made cakes for anyone who wants to drop by with some advice.
With energy prices (but not bills ... yet) falling like snow over the Pennines there will be massive relief in Government circles that the energy price guarantee will almost certainly not be renewed next Wednesday.
"How much will that save us all, Jezzer?"
"Squillions (rounding up)."
There are some very promising points of note for the Chancellor. New car registrations were up again in February, for the seventh month in a row, often a positive harbinger for a sprightly economy. The GfK Consumer Confidence indicator in the United Kingdom rose to -38 in February 2023 from -45 in the previous month, topping market estimates of -43 and pointing to the highest reading since April 2022. The seven-point increase was the biggest monthly improvement in nearly two years. The British Retail Consortium (never a very chipper organisation) also said that February was better than retailers had feared. Is being 'better than you feared' as good as (or even better than) being 'good as you hoped'?
In case you hadn't noticed, the UK’s composite purchasing managers’ index ('PMI'), averaging manufacturing and services, jumped last month to its highest since June last year. The construction PMI, released this week, also showed a strong rise to its highest since May of last year.
Consumers eagerly look towards the growth in interest rates as the one item that could tip them over the edge, and these seem likely now to peak at, what?, 4%, 4.25%? Anyone in the room got 4.5%?
Some industries are growing ahead of better news for a flatter recession and better unemployment rates. Greggs is planning 150 more stores this year, IWG, the world’s biggest provider of serviced office space, is smiling with the move from big corporate HQs to more flexible space and HelloFresh picked the right market, presumably being led by its chosen name. It grew revenues by 27 per cent to €7.6 billion as it shipped more than one billion meals around the world.
There might even be some long awaited good news for the leisure and hospitality sector. Every commercial premises in England will receive their new business rates bills from April 1. These will be based on valuations taken in April 2021, during the height of the pandemic, and for many - particularly in hospitality, retail and leisure - they will be a welcome respite to the huge burden placed on businesses during the cost of living crisis. It seems that warehouse owners will be the worst hit; but haven't they benefitted greatly from the boom in ecommerce?
Are people ever satisfied?
No, Jeremy, they are not - as you will discover next Wednesday.