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  • More good news for the industry came at the end of last week; the Office of National Statistics released data for last year’s fourth quarter construction orders; the data showed improvement from almost every sector of the industry as total orders increased by 3.4% compared to the previous quarter, or 11.2% compared to the fourth quarter of 2011.
    • The private sector proved to be the biggest driver of growth in new orders, private housing new orders were up by 10.3% and private commercial orders were up 9.7% compared to the quarter before. Social housing new orders were up 9% over the same period.
    • Of the six sectors covered in the release all but one showed growth in new orders, infrastructure new orders fell 15.4% from the preceding quarter as the sector continues to decline from the recent high in activity
  • House prices as measured by the Nationwide index rose by 0.2% in February this year compared to the first month of the year, compared to February last year prices were flat.

UK Economy

  • The ONS updated its estimate of GDP for the fourth quarter of last year, while output in the quarter remained unchanged (GDP fell 0.3% from the third quarter), there were backward revisions that pushed the level of GDP into growth for the 2012 full year from the slight fall that was previously estimated.
    • Last year’s output figures did not present an overly encouraging picture of the health of the UK economy. The overriding message from the latest data is that the drive towards rebalancing the economy is simply not happening. Net trade was actually a drag on the economy as the country continued to import more than it exported last year. 
    • Business investment also proved lacklustre contributing very little to overall growth in the year.
  • The latest data on the governments Funding for Lending Scheme cast doubts on the ability of the initiative to stimulate lending to UK households and businesses. Lending in the fourth quarter of last year slumped as only one of the UK’s big retail banks provided more loans over the period.
    • Credit to households and businesses fell by £2.7bn in the final quarter of last year, and it was only Barclays of the big banks that increased lending in the period.
  • Business investment in the fourth quarter of the year fell by 1.2% compared to the third quarter. Investment into construction businesses fell by 34% compared to the third quarter of the year, manufacturing investment was roughly flat over the same period.


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