October 5, 2011 / 8:37 AM / 8 years ago

Growth unexpectedly revised down to 0.1 percent

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s economic growth in the second quarter of this year was unexpectedly revised down to 0.1 percent, official data showed on Wednesday, casting further doubt on the strength of its stuttering economic recovery.

Pedestrians walk past a closing down sale signs in the windows of a shop on Oxford Street in London August 25, 2011. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

The Office for National Statistics said that a major recalculation of its historical data also showed that Britain’s 2008/09 recession was shorter but deeper than first thought. It said the economy contracted by 7.1 percent compared to earlier estimates of a 6.4 percent decline.

The figures are unlikely to be a big factor in the Bank of England’s finely balanced decision on Thursday on whether to start a second round of quantitative easing, which may be influenced more by an upbeat services index released earlier in the day.

The ONS said that in Q2 Britain’s economy grew at its slowest quarterly pace since Q4 2010 when it contracted by 0.5 percent. That gave a year-on-year growth rate of 0.6 percent in Q2, the weakest since Q4 2009. Economists had expected both rates to remain unrevised at 0.2 and 0.7 percent respectively.

“We’ve had some new data in, but the majority of the change is due to new methods and some new industrial weights,” said an ONS statistician about the data revisions.

The downward revision in overall economic growth appeared to have been partly driven by weaker than previously estimated output in the business services and transport and communications sectors. The contraction in industrial output was smaller than first thought.

The figures reinforce a picture of an economy that has barely grown over the past year, and which faced with sliding demand in U.S. and euro zone export markets, may require a further round of stimulus from the BoE.

Private-sector survey compiler Markit — which released its services PMI earlier on Wednesday — estimated that economic growth was only 0.4 percent in the third quarter, well below Britain’s pre-recession trend of about 0.7 percent.

Wednesday’s ONS data also call into question the central bank’s assumption about the depth of the recession and the amount of slack in Britain’s economy.

As part of the biggest revision to the classification and calculation of British GDP data in at least 15 years, the ONS said that it now believed Britain’s economy shrank by 7.1 percent between the start of the recession in Q2 2008 and its end in Q2 2009, making the recession deeper but three months shorter than it previously estimated.

These data revisions have delayed the publication of some sub-components of the second-quarter GDP data. The ONS reported that household consumption fell by 0.8 percent in Q2, while government spending rose by 1.1 percent. No figures were available for the change in households’ real income or savings ratio, or for Britain’s balance of payments.

Reporting by David Milliken and Fiona Shaikh

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