We are getting out of the woods and in the UK the number of people having already received their first dose of a vaccines has topped 20 million (at the time of writing). In its latest Economic and fiscal outlook published with the budget and Presented to Parliament, the Office for Budget Responsibility expects GDP to grow by 4% this year and regain its pre-Covid level in Q2 2022, six months earlier than it forecast in November. They expect unemployment to peak of 6.5% at the end of 2021, again less than the 7.5% expected in November 2020.
Chart of the month: Office for Budget Responsibility’s GDP forecast and scenarios
Source: ONS, OBR, Blend Network
Politics & Economics
- US Joe Biden promised that there would be enough Covid-19 vaccines for every adult in America by the end of May. This came after the White House negotiated a deal by which Merck will help produce the one-shot dose developed by Johnson & Johnson.
- In the UK, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak offered big giveaways for business but also promised big tax rises later in his 3 March Spring Budget. In its latest economic growth projections published with the budget, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) reckons the UK economy will grow by 4% in 2021, down from 5.5% in its previous forecast, but then storm ahead by 7.3% in 2022, the fastest rise seen in eight decades.
- The American Senate passed President Joe Biden’s landmark $1.9 trillion stimulus bill. The package includes $1,400 stimulus checks for many Americans, $350 billion in aid to state and local governments and an extension of federal unemployment benefits.
- In the UK, the Spring Budget provided yet more spending on workers and businesses to cushion the blow of Covid-19. The furlough scheme was extended to September, taking the total fiscal support for the pandemic to £407 billion. Unsurprisingly, tax increases were on the menu: Corporation tax is to be raised from 19% to 25% in 2023.
- UK house prices saw renewed momentum in February. Average prices were up by an impressive 6.9% year-on-year, the second strongest reading since December 2014.
- In his Spring Budget on 3 March, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the stamp duty holiday on house purchases was to be extended in England and Northern Ireland for a further three months. He also announced more support for first-time buyers.
- Inflation risks – and anxieties about inflation – in the US have increased. ‘While it is still early days, the ingredients for a sustained pick-up in inflation over the next few years seem to be falling into place in the US’, writes in a recent report Capital Economics who believes that medium-term inflation risks are much lower in the EU and in Japan.
FX & Commodities
- The USD trade-weighted index has recently traded in a very tight range, and last month was essentially flat by the end of the month. In contrast, the US bond market has seen much more activity. Ten-year treasury bond yields rose aggressively towards the end of last month. The steepening of the US curve has been pretty impressive: it has almost doubled since December as inflation expectations have increased.
At Blend Network, we have seen a rapid growth in the number of lenders over recent months and the demand for loans has exploded. So, we are working very hard to bring more great risk/reward loans for all our lenders. February was a good month – we funded £1,745,000 – and we are also ending March on a high note with £1,700,000funded. Keep an eye on www.blendnetwork.com and make sure you don’t miss our loans by topping up your e-wallet.
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