LIVE – Updated at 14:53
October’s producer price index figures fuel hopes that US inflation is easing, as company insolvencies in England and Wales jump.
Full story: US wholesale inflation eases to 8%, 4th straight slowdown
Prices at the wholesale level rose 8% in October from a year ago, the fourth straight decline and the latest sign that inflation pressures in the United States are easing from painfully high levels, Associated Press report.
The annual figure is down from 8.4% in September. On a monthly basis, the government said Tuesday that its producer price index, which measures costs before they reach consumers, rose 0.2% in October from September. That was same as in the previous month, which was revised down from an initial reading of 0.4%.
The figures came in lower than economists expected and make it more likely that the Federal Reserve will increase its benchmark interest rate in smaller increments. It has hiked its short-term rate by three-quarters of a point for four meetings in a row, but economists now increasingly foresee an increase of a half-point at its December meeting.
Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, a forecasting firm, says:
“The improvement in the October inflation data, if it persists, supports the Fed’s expectation of a step down in the pace of increases going forward.”
Most of the monthly increase reflected higher gas prices at the wholesale level, which rose 5.7% just in October. The cost of new cars fell 1.5%, last month, which could lead to lower prices at the retail level as well.
Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core producer prices were unchanged in October from September, the lowest reading in nearly two years. Core prices increased 6.7% last month from a year ago, down from a 7.1% annual rate in September.
The cost of services, such as hotels, air travel, and health care, slipped 0.1% in October from September, the first drop since November 2020.
Wall Street jumps
Stocks have opened higher in New York, as traders hail the drop in PPI inflation.
The S&P 500 index of US stocks has jumped 1.5%, while the Dow Jones industrial averaeg of 30 major companies is 1% higher.
Tech stocks, which are vulnerable to higher interest rates, are among the risers, lifting the Nasdaq by 2.5%.
US producer price inflation eases
Just in: American producers eased off on their price rises last month, in another sign that inflation could have peaked.
US producer price inflation slowed to 8% in October, down from 8.4% in September.
On a monthly basis, PPI rose by 0.2%.
Goods inflation rose, driven by more expensive gasoline, but services prices actually fell by 0.1% in the month, the first fall in almost two years.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics epxlains:
In October, 60 percent of the increase in prices for final demand goods is attributable to the index for gasoline, which rose 5.7 percent. Prices for diesel fuel, fresh and dry vegetables, residential electric power, chicken eggs, and oil field and gas field machinery also advanced.
In contrast, the index for passenger cars declined 1.5 percent.
The US Federal Reserve will also be encouraged to see that core producer price inflation fell.
PPI, stripping out food and energy, dropped to 6.7% year-on-year, down from 7.2%.
Greg Daco of EY Parthenon confirms that US producer price inflation cooled more than expected last month:
Wall Street futures have jumped too, with the Nasdaq 100 index of tech shares expected to surge 3% at the open.
The dollar has extended its losses following the drop in US PPI inflation, sending the pound up to $1.20 for the first time since mid August.
Traders are banking that inflation is slowing, which will allow the Fed to ease off on interest rate rises soon.
The record disparity between UK public and private sector pay rises (2.2% vs 6.6%) will continue to widen, fears Paula Bejarano Carbo, associate economist at NIESR.
We expect this disparity to continue growing through the fourth quarter of this year, undoubtedly causing further strain to many public sector workers struggling to cope with the cost-of-living crisis.
Given the expected departmental spending cuts in the Chancellor’s upcoming Autumn Statement, this trend bodes poorly for public sector workers – who are increasingly resorting to industrial action to bargain for higher wages.”
Pound hits three-month high against US dollar
Sterling has climbed to its highest level against the US dollar since mid-August, as the US currency continues to slide.
The pound has gained one and a half cents to $1.1904, and is also up half a euro cent at €1.1436.
The pound has rallied after UK regular pay rose at the fastest pace in a year (although still behind inflation). That could encourage the Bank of England to raise interest rates again in December.
The dollar, though, has fallen back from recent 20-year highs in recent sessions after US inflation fell faster than expected in October.
Federal Reserve Vice Chair Lael Brainard indicated on Monday that the central bank could soon slow the pace of its interest rate increases, which put the dollar on the back foot.
The dollar’s weakness was also due to “Ukraine taking it to the Russians”, says Brad Bechtel of Jefferies.
The liberation of Kherson has lifted hopes that Russia could suffer a catastrophic political defeat.
The UK is spending in debt interest £22bn more in the year to date than at the same time last year, Jeremy Hunt has said.
Speaking at Treasury questions in the House of Commons, Hunt said Thursday’s autumn statement would show a pathway to debt reduction.
The chancellor explains:
Margaret Thatcher said that there is nothing moral about spending money you do not have and that is precisely because of what she says that it passes on the burden to future generations to pay it back.
“Currently, our debt to GDP ratio is about 98% and we are currently spending £22bn more on debt interest in the year to date than at the same time last year.
That’s more than the entire budget of the Home Office, Hunt added.
Soaring inflation has pushed up the debt repayment bill, as the interest rate on some government debt is linked to the RPI inflation measure, which hit 12.6% in September.
Moet Hennessy ‘running out of champagne’ as demand surges
Astonishingly, champagne maker Moët Hennessy says it’s running out of some vintages as wealthy drinkers celebrate the winding back of pandemic restrictions.
It’s another clear sign of the unequal economy, with the rich splashing out more on luxury goods and services even as millions face falling real wages.
Bloomberg has the story:
“We are running out of stock,” for some top champagnes, Moët Hennessy chief executive Philippe Schaus said in an interview with Bloomberg Television at the New Economy Forum in Singapore, adding that the current period has been dubbed the “roaring 20s” internally.
There’s good news on the horizon too, with the new year set to see supply replenished, he said.
After an initial slump in the early days of the pandemic, the biggest names in luxury are reporting a spending frenzy as consumers unleash pent-up demand.
LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE managed to beat analyst estimates at four of its five main divisions in its most recent earnings, while Hermès International saw revenue surge 24%, excluding currency swings, despite increasing a raft of product prices.
Back in February, City bars reported a boom in champagne sales as bankers celebrates bumper bonuses, even as food banks warned of surging demand from struggling households.
And even luxury yacht-makers have reported a jump in demand in the pandemic.
Today’s economic data shows the folly of imposing more austerity on the UK, says economics professor David Blanchflower, a former policymaker at the Bank of England.
Company insolvencies are increasing as the UK heads into an economic downturn, withouh the pandemic-era business protection measures, says Claire Burden, partner in the advisory consulting team at Evelyn Partners.
Burden points out that some business owners have been using their personal wealth to keep their businesses running, such as selling or remortaging their home:
242 companies entered compulsory liquidation in the last month, four times as many as in October last year, as winding-up petitions presented by HMRC increase.
The liquidation statistics are particularly concerning after Evelyn Partners research suggests an increase in owner funding across the market, as businesses face challenges accessing capital.
For instance, a survey of more than 500 UK business owners with revenues of £5m upwards shows that UK business owners are taking measures to invest their personal wealth into their businesses before letting staff go or cutting wages:
Some “zombie firms” who were kept running through the pandemic by government support are now failing, says Chris Tate, restructuring and insolvency partner at Azets.
Commenting on October’s jump in insolvencies, Tate says:
“This continued increase in corporate insolvencies versus pre-pandemic levels is primarily fuelled by a rise in Creditor Voluntary Liquidations (CVLs), a terminal process whereby there is often very little recovered by creditors.
“A proportion of these liquidations relate to businesses that would have failed sooner were it not for the government support measures, which, while they were instrumental in providing businesses much needed support, inadvertently propped up ailing businesses which were likely destined to fail in any event.
“This is also reflected in the recent increase in compulsory liquidations, partly driven by banks and HMRC taking more proactive recovery action.
“The smaller number of Administrations and Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs), seen as rescue tools to salvage viable businesses, suggests the pandemic will likely have significantly increased numbers of heavily debt burdened zombie businesses, now limping on with marginal prospects of a return to good health.”
Insolvencies jump almost 40% as economic downturn claims more firms
Nearly 2,000 companies in England and Wales collapsed last month in the face of a weakening economy, and soaring inflation.
There were 1,948 company insolvencies across England and Wales last month, the Insolvency Service has reported today, up from September’s total of 1,684.
That’s 38% more than in October 2021, when there were restrictions on winding up companies during the pandemic, and also 32% higher than in 2019.
It shows that companies in England and Wales face a “worsening situation”, says Jeremy Whiteson, restructuring and insolvency partner at city law firm Fladgate:
It would be unsurprising if the situation was worsening for businesses and this was not merely a blip.
High fuel prices, inflation, labour shortages, post-Brexit difficulties with international shipping, uncertainty in capital markets, raising interest rates and geo-political uncertainty all pose difficulties for businesses.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that there are a growing number of businesses in financial distress – although many are not yet reaching for formal insolvency procedures.
Voluntary liquidations made up the bulk of the insolvencies, with companies deciding to be wound up because they could not meet their obligations to creditors. But there were 242 compulsory liquidations – more than four times as many as in October 2021.
David Hudson, restructuring Partner at FRP Advisory says inflation is hurting businesses badly:
“On the ground inflation is devastating margins and throwing into doubt historically sound business models, which is eating away at confidence, undermining recovery plans and, crucially, testing the resolve of lenders.
The latest insolvency figures show what many business leaders have been witnessing on the ground for some time now, conditions on the economic frontline are stormy. The Chancellor faces an unenviable task on Thursday to steady the ship.”
Two in five established businesses are concerned that they could face insolvency or mass redundancies as the UK enters into a recession, according to a recent survey from Allica Bank.
The cost of living squeeze is now driving some companies out of business, explains Nicky Fisher, vice president of R3, the insolvency and restructuring trade body.
“A series of economic issues, the end of temporary insolvency legislation, and a lack of a post-COVID bounce have hit all parts of the economy and the supply chain hard, and have resulted in more directors choosing to close their businesses and more creditors calling in debts as a means of balancing their own books.
“The current outlook is tough for many businesses as costs rise and consumer confidence remains low. Worries about the price of food and fuel as winter approaches means many people are saving their money ahead of their bills coming in and simply aren’t spending – and a range of businesses, including household names, are struggling as a result.
“On top of this, business owners are worried about the economy, the prospect of an imminent and prolonged recession, and where they’ll find the money to meet employees’ requests for increased pay as their own costs of living increase.
Christmas shoppers struggle with mammoth Tesco queue
People looking to secure a Tesco Christmas slot this morning have complained of a queue of over 100,000 by 6am and a crashing site, PA Media report.
Delivery Saver customers were told they could book a slot from 6am on November 15, but some complained that the queue was opened before the advertised time.
Posting on Twitter, one customer said:
“I logged on at 5.59 (am) to get ready only to find over 135,000 in the queue already.”
By 6.13am, users were posting screenshots that showed the queue was up to 180,000 people.
Shortly after 9am a customer posted:
“I got on after a 2.5 hour wait. Managed to get a slot on the 21st (22 and 23 already fully booked).”
Others complained they spent time waiting in the queue only to be kicked out:
A Tesco spokesperson said:
“We’re currently seeing a high number of visits to our website and Groceries app and some customers are temporarily having difficulty logging on or placing orders.
“We’re really sorry about this. There are still slots available for both home delivery and click & collect over the Christmas period and we’re working to get things back up and running as quickly as we can. In the meantime, we recommend that customers use our website to place their order.”
Full story: UK strike levels soar as public sector workers face worst pay squeeze
The number of working days lost to strikes in the UK has risen to the highest in more than a decade as pay growth in the public sector falls behind the private sector at the sharpest rate on record.
The Office for National Statistics said more than half a million days were lost to industrial disputes in August and September as annual wage growth fails to keep pace with the soaring cost of living.
In the final snapshot of the jobs market before the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, delivers his autumn statement on Thursday, the figures suggested public sector workers were bearing the brunt of the cost of living emergency thanks to much weaker pay growth than the economy at large.
The annual rate of pay growth, excluding bonuses, in the private sector rose to 6.6% in the three months to September, compared with 2.2% for the public sector.
Excluding the Covid pandemic, when economic data was distorted by furlough and changes in the workforce, the ONS said this was the biggest difference it had experienced.
Here’s the full story:
Here’s a neat round-up of today’s UK unemployment report, from Tony Wilson, director of the Institute for Employment Studies:
(or you can scroll back to 7.32am for full coverage)
That’s the warning from the International Energy Agency today, as the energy markets already wrestle with high prices and a weaker global economy
In its monthly report, the IEA says:
“The approaching EU embargoes on Russian crude and oil product imports and a ban on maritime services will add further pressure on global oil balances, and, in particular, on already exceptionally tight diesel markets.
“A proposed oil price cap may help alleviate tensions, yet a myriad of uncertainties and logistical challenges remain … the range of uncertainty has never been so large.”
With economic headwinds mounting, the IEA predicts that demand growth will slow to 1.6 million barrels per day in 2023, down from 2.1 million b/d this year.
China’s persistently weak economy, Europe’s energy crisis, burgeoning product cracks and the strong US dollar are all weighing heavily on consumption.
Tomato ketchup fans will agree with Jeremy Hunt that inflation has an ‘insidious’ impact.
The cost of Heinz tomato ketchup in UK supermarkets has shot up 53% since 2020, making it the biggest riser in of a list of leading branded groceries.
Two other Heinz products also made the top 10 in the index of average price rises compiled by the consumer group Which? – the brand’s cream of chicken and tomato soups.
The research comes four months after the company’s products temporarily disappeared from the shelves of Tesco, the UK’s biggest supermarket chain, in a row over price increases. Heinz was thought to have been seeking cost price rises of as much as 30% in the summer.
Which? found that its list of 79 popular branded products exceeded the overall rate of grocery price inflation, with none rising less than 22%. More here:
The slowdown in the jobs market could also further depress the housing market.
Prices have already started falling, while the drop in real wages makes it harder for save for deposits.
Just over 2m mortgages, around a quarter of the total, come to the end of their fixed term by the end of 2023, and are “likely to be refinancing at much higher rates”, the Bank of England has warned.
Neal Hudson, a UK housing market analyst, said:
“In isolation, these higher mortgage rates would cause hardship for some households, but the impact on the wider housing market and economy could be managed.
“However, alongside higher mortgage rates, there is the cost of living crisis, with high inflation and increasing energy costs alongside rapidly rising rents.
And it now looks like we can add public spending cuts and pay caps to the list. The prospects for the housing market and economy are looking scary – and any deterioration in one will feed through to the other.”
Japan contracts by 0.3% as high inflation rages
Soaring inflation has also hammered Japan’s economy.
Japanese GDP shrank unexpectedly, by 0.3%, in the third quarter of the year, new figures show.
The global slowdown hit businesses, while the weak yen drove up the cost of imports.
It means that Japan and Britain were the only two G7 countries not to grow in July-September, with UK GDP falling 0.2%.
Mobile phone operator Vodafone has cut its forecasts as economic woes rise, and announced a €1bn cost-cutting drive.
Vodafone warns that the global macroeconomic climate has worsened in the face of rising energy costs and broader inflation. It has lowered its core earnings guidance, and its predictions for free cash flow.
Nick Read, Vodafone’s chief executive, says the macroeconomic environment is challenging – with Vodafone lifting its prices across Europe in response to higher inflation:
We are taking a number of steps to mitigate the economic backdrop of high energy costs and rising inflation. These include taking pricing action across Europe, whilst at the same time supporting our most vulnerable customers and driving energy efficiency measures across the business.
We are also announcing today a new cost savings target of €1+ billion focused on streamlining and further simplifying the Group.
Shares in Vodafone are down 5%.
Minister for Employment, Guy Opperman MP, says:
“The UK labour market has remained resilient in the face of global challenges, with a low unemployment rate and a record number of people on payrolls.
“Whilst these figures are encouraging, we recognise that families are facing rising prices and employers need support to fill vacancies with a reliable workforce. Our focus is on making sure people looking for work, and those already in work, have the opportunity to boost their skills and keep more of what they earn – helped by our extensive network of Jobcentres.
“Our priority will always be to support the most vulnerable and we recognise that people are struggling with rising prices, which is why we are protecting millions of those most in need with at least £1,200 of direct payments.”
The UK jobs market will come under more pressure as winter draws in, and increased energy bills starting to really bite businesses’ bottom line, warns Richard Carter, head of fixed interest research at Quilter Cheviot:
In real terms, total pay fell by 2.6% and regular pay fell by 2.7%. This remains one of the largest falls in pay since 2001.
Although there was growth in average pay this growth is totally eclipsed by the inflation we are experiencing, meaning that people’s pay packets simply will not stretch so far.
Although the UK is not officially in recession it looks almost certain that we are heading for one.
The budget on Thursday will further illustrate the precarious financial position the UK is in and while this fiscal event will hopefully be better welcomed by the markets compared to the mini-budget delivered by Truss and Kwarteng, it is certainly going to spell pain for public services and bring higher taxes for all further muddying the picture as we head into winter.
Labour market showing signs of slowdown
Despite fears of a looming recession, the labour market has remained very tight post pandemic driven by the Great Resignation after Covid as well as Brexit which have reduced the available pool of potential employees in the UK, creating a worker shortage and thereby pushing up job vacancies and flattering the unemployment rate.
This has also given workers much more bargaining power when it comes to wage negotiations, allowing employees to demand higher wages to cover the increasing cost of living, especially in the private sector.
However, we are beginning to see tentative signs of an economic slowdown come through in the labour market figures now with job vacancies retreating from the highs as businesses make cutbacks and reduce hiring and with the unemployment rate surpassing analysts’ expectations. And although wages are rising sharply, they are still falling short of inflation, representing a real pay cut both in the private and public sector.
No doubt Jeremy Hunt will claim both the low unemployment rate and high wage growth as victories for the government when he delivers his Autumn Statement on Thursday.
But underneath the surface, the picture is less rosy with inflation still eroding real pay and with a major worker shortage that is adding to the inflationary backdrop and making the labour market appear stronger than it really is.
Number off work due to long-term illness hits record high
More than 2.5 million people are now unable to work due to long-term illness, the most on record.
As this chart shows, long term sickness has driven the rise in economic inactivity (those neither working nor looking for work).
Tony Wilson, director at the Institute for Employment Studies, says far too many people are falling out of the jobs market altogether, and need more government support.
“There are now 630 thousand more people out of work than before the pandemic began and today’s figures show clearly that people aren’t becoming unemployed, they’re leaving the labour force altogether. The number of people leaving work to unemployment over the last three months was below a quarter of a million for the first time on record, while more than twice as many people left work to economic inactivity.
And our analysis shows that once people become economically inactive they are less and less likely to come back to work, with the number off work for five years or more growing by more than two hundred thousand in the last few years.
Our Commission on the Future of Employment Support launched last week showed that a large part of the problem is that people just aren’t getting the right help to get back into work. The number of jobseekers using Jobcentre Plus has halved over the last decade while the government’s Restart scheme is set to underspend by over a billion pounds.
With more than a million unfilled vacancies, a shrinking economy and falling living standards, cutting access to employment support is a complete false economy. The Budget on Thursday needs to put this right, in particular by opening up Restart to more of those who are out of work and want help to get back in.”
Hunt: ‘insidious’ inflation eating into wages
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has blamed the Ukraine war for driving up inflation, meaning wages aren’t keeping up with prices.
He also points out that unemployment is still near its record low, despite rising in the last quarter.
“Unemployment remains near record lows – providing security to families and testament to the resilience of the British economy even in the face of severe global challenges.
“But I appreciate that people’s hard-earned money isn’t going as far as it should. Putin’s illegal war has driven up inflation – a hidden and insidious tax that is eating into paychecks and savings.
“Tackling inflation is my absolute priority and that guides the difficult decisions on tax and spending we will make on Thursday. Restoring stability and getting debt falling is our only option to reduce inflation and limit interest rate rises.”
Rachel Reeves MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, says:
“Today’s figures press home the knock-on impact of 12 years of Tory economic mistakes and low growth.
“Real wages have fallen again, thousands of over-50s have left the labour market and a record number of people are out of work because they’re stuck on NHS waiting lists or they’re not getting proper employment support.
“What Britain needs in the Autumn Statement on Thursday are fairer choices for working people, and a proper plan for growth.
“Labour has a plan to secure our economy and get it growing again, powered by the talent and effort of millions of working people and thousands of businesses.”
Strike disruption hits decade high
More than half a million working days were lost to strike action in August and September – the most in over a decade.
Much of the disruption was centred on the transport sector, where there were widespread railway strikes, and in communications, where BT staff held their first national walkouts in 35 years.
Darren Morgan, director of labour and economic statistics at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) explains:
“August and September saw well over half a million working days lost to strikes, the highest two-month total in more than a decade, with the vast majority coming from the transport and communications sectors.
“With real earnings continuing to fall, it’s not surprising that employers we survey are telling us most disputes are about pay.”
Public sector pay squeeze deepens
Public sector workers are being worst hit by the real pay squeeze.
Regular pay in the public sector rose by 2.2% in the last year, lagging far behind the private sector where pay has risen by 6.6%.
That is the largest difference between the private sector and public sector on record (apart from in the pandemic, when private sector earnings sank).
Vacancies fall again
UK companies cut back on hiring, again, in the last quarter.
The number of job vacancies dropped to 1.225m in August to October 2022, down 46,000 in May to July 2022.
It’s the fourth quarterly fall in a row.
Vacancies fell fastest at information and communication companies (-11.9%), and at pubs, restaurants, cafes and hotels (-11.3).
More companies have reported holding back on recruitment due to economic pressures, the ONS says.
Introduction: UK jobless rate rises to 3.6%, wages still lag inflation
Good morning and welcome to our rolling coverage of business, the financial markets and the world economy.
Britain’s jobless rate has risen, as the economy heads into what could be a long recession.
The unemployment rate nudged up to 3.6% in the July-September quarter, up from 3.5% a month ago, according to the latest labour market report from the Office for National Statistics.
Yael Selfin, chief economist at KPMG UK, warns that cracks now starting to show in the wider economy, meaning unemployment will keep rising.
“It is only a matter of time before the recessionary environment spills into the labour market as employers increasingly consider the weakening demand and rising labour costs.
While the vacancy rate will likely be one of the first indicators to turn, we expect the unemployment rate to eventually peak at around 6% by 2024.
Wages have risen faster than expected – but still not fast enough to keep up with inflation.
Total pay, including bonuses, rose by 6% per year in July-September, while regular pay rose by 5.7%, up from 5.4%.
That’s the strongest growth in regular pay seen outside the pandemic period.
But with consumer price inflation hitting 10.1% in September, real wages are still falling.
But… the number of people on company payrolls has continued to rise in October – to 834,000 above the pre-pandemic levels.
Almost 9 million people were not working or looking for work, higher than before the pandemic. Around 21.6% were classed as economically inactive – up from 20.2% in February 2020.
The ONS says:
During the latest three-month period, the increase in economic inactivity was driven by those who are long-term sick, who increased to a record high.
The rise in people with long Covid is one factor, as is home working in the pandemic.
There has been a sharp rise in the number of people being unfit for work because of neck and back injuries – after many months of home-working at crowded kitchen tables and cramped home offices.
Also coming up today
We get a second estimate of eurozone growth in the last quarter, plus a healthcheck on German economic sentiment.
Investors will pay close attention to the latest producer price inflation data from America. It will show how fast goods and services prices rose in October.
Michael Hewson of CMC Markets explains:
In recent months PPI has tended to act as a leading indicator, although there was a spike in June, the general trend has been a gradual decline in prices since the end of Q1.
Final demand PPI is expected to slip back to 8.3% from 8.5%, while core PPI excluding food and energy is expected to remain steady at 7.2%.
7am GMT: UK labour market report
9am GMT: IEA monthly oil market report
10am GMT: Eurozone Q3 GDP (second estimate)
10am GMT: Eurozone trade balance
10am GMT: ZEW index of German economic sentiment
1.30pm GMT: US producer price inflation for October