Wednesday, 13 May 2009

It's not often I'm right but . . .

I had an interesting conversation with a contact of mine last week. His research department (he’s in property) has produced a research report which showed that the property sector and economy as a whole was, excuse my language, on its *rse!

The big question was: does he release the report to the media or suppress it in true Civil Service style? I advised suppression on the basis that three-month old statistics detailing the UK’s economic misery was hardly big news and it wouldn’t do them any good to be seen to drive the sector down any further. Furthermore, I expressed the opinion that the place for the economic story to go next was recovery, glints of light and greenshoots.

Now it’s not often I’m right, but FT readers will note yesterday’s front page proclaiming that the recession is over (well not quite, ‘bottomed out is the phrase’ used) and I intend to enjoy being correct for once – particularly in light of my LDV predictions!

I have been, and my colleagues will verify this, bullish on this one for a while and my confidence only increased further last week when two clients separately told me that estate agents were beginning to complain about a lack of stock for potential buyers (they’re never happy are they?).

Admittedly, I did not expect to see greenshoots this early. My feeling all along has been that the unprecedented fiscal stimulus that has hit the UK, including VAT at 15%, interest rates at historic lows, quantitative easing and a collapsed oil price (although I notice unleaded is creeping back to nearly a £1 a litre despite oil only being at $60 a barrel) would begin to drag us out of this at the back end of the year. Also, I retained a perhaps naïve faith that consumption would return to normal levels as consumers, who have put off buying that new microwave or a car, decide that enough is enough and go for a good old splurge.

I am acutely aware that further bad news could snuff out these greenshoots of consumer confidence, but barring a real global pandemic (not a fake one), further massive writedowns by our banks when they report again in the autumn or the four horsemen of the apocalypse riding over the horizon, I think there is genuine reason for cautious optimism.

Print that Mr Thorne (and no you can’t have a copy of the report).


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