UK house prices rise for third month; factory downturn eases – business live

Introduction: UK house prices gained 0.2% in November

Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of business, the financial markets and the world economy.

The UK’s house price recovery “continued in November”, according to the Nationwide Building Society, as falling mortgage rates help to warm up demand.

After a bumpy year for the housing market, Nationwide has just reported that UK house prices rose 0.2% month-on-month in November, on a seasonally-adjusted basis. That’s the third monthly rise in a row – surprising City economists who expected a 0.4% monthly fall.

On an annual basis, prices were 2% lower than a year ago – a weak result, but the strongest reading since February.

According to Nationwide, the average price of a house sold in November was £258,557, which (you may note) is actually slightly lower than October’s £259,423 – but that’s before seasonal adjustments.

This data only covers lenders who take out a mortgage, rather than cash buyers, but it’s still a good test of the housing market.

The housing market is benefitting from the drop in UK inflation, which is leading to expectations that UK interest rates will be lower than previously feared. Several mortgage lenders have cut their rates in recent weeks.

Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, says:

“There has been a significant change in market expectations for the future path of Bank Rate in recent months which, if sustained, could provide much needed support for housing market activity.

“In mid-August, investors had expected the Bank of England to raise rates to a peak of around 6% and lower them only modestly (to c.4%) over the next five years. By the end of November, this had shifted to a view that rates have now peaked (at 5.25%) and that they will be lowered to around 3.5% in the years ahead.

A chart showing the market-implied path of UK interest rates
Photograph: Nationwide

But even so, the housing market has clearly cooled this year. Data yesterday showed that the number of home sales in October was 21% lower than the same month last year.

Also coming up today

Rail passengers are being warned to expect days of disruption as train drivers in the Aslef union start an overtime ban and a series of rolling strikes halting services across Britain, in a long-running dispute over pay.

Drivers will be taking industrial action at train operating companies contracted to the Department for Transport, striking for 24 hours at each one on different dates between Saturday 2 December and Friday 8 December.

The strikes will stop most or all trains at the affected operators in England and also hit some cross-border services to Scotland and Wales.

We also get a healthcheck on UK and eurozone factories this morning.

And later today, global investors will hear from America’s top central banker, Jerome Powell, and hope to hear hints as to when the US Federal Reserve might start cutting interest rates.

The agenda

  • 8am GMT: Switzerland’s Q3 GDP report

  • 9am GMT: Eurozone manufacturing PMI report for November

  • 9.30am GMT: UK manufacturing PMI report for November

  • 3pm GMT: US manufacturing PMI report for November

  • 4pm GMT: Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell participates in a fireside chat at Spelman College, US

Key events

Elsewhere in the world economy today, Switzerland has returned to growth.

Switzerland’s economy grew by 0.3% during the third quarter, the government said on Friday, having stagnated in April-June.

Growth in the service sector helped offset stagnating manufacturing growth.

Back in the housing sector, the UK’s Office for National Statistics has unveiled a new way of measuring private rental prices… which would have raised the rate of inflation if it had been applied in the past.

The ONS’s new method, called the Price Index of Private Rents (PIPR) is 0.7 percentage points higher than the existing Index of Private Housing Rental Prices (IPHRP).

That means average annual growth in rental prices between January 2016 and October 2023 is now estimated at 2.8%, up from 2.1% under the existing method.

As this chart shows, the new method shows a rather sharper increase in rental prices than the old assessment of rental changes.

A chart showing the UK's new method of measuring rental inflation, versus the old way
A chart showing the UK’s new method of measuring rental inflation, versus the old way Photograph: ONS

The ONS also reports that:

  • Rental prices for flats and maisonettes in Great Britain grew at the fastest rate of all property types in the year to October 2023 (9.0%), while terraced houses saw the slowest growth (7.8%).

  • Rental prices for one-bedroom properties in Great Britain grew at the fastest rate of all bedroom categories in the year to October 2023 (8.7%), while four or more-bedroom properties saw the lowest growth (8.0%).

The stats body has also created a new interactive map, that lets you check rental increases in areas across the UK:

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Go North East bus workers accept strike-ending pay offer

There’s a breakthrough in another transport dispute, though.

A bus strike across North East England will end after workers at Go North East accepted a pay offer, the Unite union says.

Drivers, engineers and administrators at Go North East will receive a pay rise of 10.5%, backdated to 1 July 2023, plus a further 0.7% rise in January 2024. Pay will also increase on 1 July 2024 in line with the RPI inflation measure, but at least 4%.

Unite national lead officer Onay Kasab says:

“I’m delighted our members have secured this substantial pay increase. Thanks to their tireless efforts on picket lines and at protests they have secured the pay increase they deserve.”

BREAKING: 1,300 Go North East bus drivers, engineers and administrators, members of @unitetheunion, have won an 11.2% pay rise following strike action.

Bus services will resume from tomorrow.

— Taj Ali (@Taj_Ali1) December 1, 2023

Aslef members vote to continue strike action

Aslef, the train drivers’ trade union, has announced that its members have voted overwhelmingly to continue strike action in their ongoing national dispute over pay.

Mick Whelan, Aslef’s general secretary, says:

‘We are in this for the long haul. Our members – who have not had a pay rise for nearly five years now – are determined that the train companies – and the Tory government that stands behind them – do the right thing.

‘The cost of living has soared since the spring and summer of 2019, when these pay deals ran out. The bosses at the train companies – as well as Tory MPs and government ministers – have had increases in pay. It’s unrealistic – and unfair – to expect our members to work just as hard for what, in real terms, is considerably less.

The result of the vote comes as ASLEF members begin an overtime ban today, to run until Saturday 9 December, which could lead to disruption for operators that rely on rest-day working.

Aslef staff are also holding a series of strikes between December 2 and 8.

Drivers will go on strike at East Midlands and LNER this Saturday; at Avanti West Coast, Chiltern, Great Northern Thameslink and West Midlands on Sunday; at C2C and Greater Anglia on Tuesday; at Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express and SouthWestern on Wednesday; at CrossCountry and GWR on Thursday; and at Northern and TransPennine Express next Friday.

UK manufacturing export orders drop again

Depressingly, today’s UK manufacturing PMI report shows that new export orders fell again, extending a slide to 22 months in a row.

The report blames “strong international competition” hurting sales to several overseas markets including mainland China, Europe and the US.

Dr. John Glen, chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply, said:

“A huge injection of uncertainty amongst customers meant new work fell for the eighth month in a row, as the UK economy continued along a fragile path unable to sustain solid marketplace activity.

Orders from overseas were in an even more dire state and fell for the 22nd month.”

The UK lost nine breweries in the last quarter, as brewers were hit by tough trading conditions and rising cost.

Industry body the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) reports that the number of UK breweries dropped to 1,817 on 30 September, from 1,826 at the end of June. That follows a net increase of 2 breweries in April-June.

Andy Slee, chief executive of SIBA, says:

Brewery numbers have been more stable than many would have predicted, with no large percentage decreases but it is still concerning to see numbers slip back slightly, and whilst it was positive to see beer duty frozen in the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor could have gone further and boosted the Draught Relief to 20% or more which guarantees that beer sold in pubs has a lower rate of duty.”

Boudewijn Driedonks, partner at McKinsey & Company, sees a ‘ray of hope’ in today’s UK manufacturing PMI report, even though it shows another drop in activity.

Driedonks says:

“The rate of UK Manufacturing activity decline is starting to turn the corner – the figure is finally starting to creep up towards the magic 50, bringing a ray of hope to producers.

Declining inflationary pressure and stable interest rates – although still high – likely add to this momentum. But let’s not forget – we have experienced nearly 12 months of declining activity and new orders have continued to fall. Even if the decline is starting to bend the curve, the UK may start 2024 with a manufacturing economy at significantly lower levels than previous years.

Across the Eurozone, the rate of decline also seems to have turned a corner, but their PMI shows how brittle the economy is, Driedonks adds:

Sentiment across Europe shows a similar picture with both Germany and France, despite being very different economies, displaying a slight upward trend.

While the outlook remains muted, manufacturers seem to take confidence from flattening inflation rates and there are some signs of business confidence returning as the worst concerns about the macro-economic environment start to soften.”

UK communications regulator seeks comments on Telegraph deal

Do you think the Telegraph newspapers should be owned by a consortium backed by the UAE? Or do you oppose the idea?

Either way, the UK communications regulator wants to hear from you.

Ofcom has published an invitation to comment on the public interest test concerning the potential deal. It is seeking responses by 13 December.

Ofcom’s interest has been triggered by the culture secretary, Lucy Frazer, who yesterday issued a public interest intervention notice (PIIN) over the Barclay family’s efforts to strike a deal to transfer control of the Telegraph newspaper and Spectator magazine to a consortium backed by the UAE.

That means Ofcom is now holding an in-depth inquiry, which will examine how the transaction may affect the public interest, with relation to “accurate presentation of the news” and “free expression of opinion”.

The Barclays family are trying to push through a deal with Lloyds Bank, which took control of the titles in June after the family failed to repay £1.16bn in debt. Under the Barclays’ plan, investment firm RedBird IMI would repay that debt with new loans, which would then be converted to equity, allowing them to take ownership of the titles.

This plan has prompted Lloyds to pause its auction of the Telegraph and Spectator, while it waits to see if the Barclays can repay that debt.

To take part, you can sent a Word document by email to, along with a coversheet (full details are here)

Or write to:

UK factories are suffering from weak consumer demand, at a time when customers are also running down stocks build up in the pandemic.

So explains Glynn Bellamy, UK Head of Industrial Products for KPMG.

Following this morning’s increase in the manufacturing PMI, Bellamy says:

“A slowdown in inflation and a pause in interest rate hikes has slightly eased the pressure on manufacturers, but costs remain high in relative terms.

“Manufacturers exposed to weaker consumer demand, from both domestic and export markets, continue to suffer most from new order downturn – with post-pandemic destocking also a factor.

“The performance of other parts of the sector, such as aerospace and defence, are faring much better – but do still face their own supply chain challenges that limit output.”

UK factory downturn eases, but little festive cheer

The UK’s manufacturing downturn also slowed in November (as we just saw in the eurozone).

The latest survey of purchasing managers at manufacturing firms found that production contracted for the ninth consecutive month (bad news), but the rate of decline eased sharply to its second-weakest during that sequence (which is mildly encouraging).

The S&P Global / CIPS UK manufacturing PMI rose to 47.2 in November, up from 44.8 in October. That’s the highest level since April, and the third successive monthly increase.

However, it’s still below the 50-point seperating expansion from contraction, indicating another drop in activity.

And new orders, output, employment, suppliers’ delivery times and stocks of purchases were all at levels “consistent with a deterioration in operating conditions”.

Job losses, for example, were registered for the fourteenth successive month.

The downturn in production was led by manufacturers focussed towards business-to-business and capital spending, showing that companies are cutting back on investment.

Rob Dobson, director at S&P Global Market Intelligence, says the finer details of the PMI report bring “little festive cheer”, adding:

With new order inflows and exports continuing to fall sharply, and clients destocking, a sustained meaningful growth revival still looks elusive. Manufacturers are preparing for tough times ahead, with their continued caution leading to cutbacks in staffing, inventories and purchasing.

Over in the eurozone, the manufacturing downturn has eased slightly last month.

The latest poll of purchasing managers across eurozone factories has found that the contractions in output, new orders, purchasing activity and inventories slowed last month.

Business confidence at manufacturers edged up to a three-month high, but they kept cutting jobs for the sixth month in a row, according to the latest data from S&P Global.

Its HCOB eurozone manufacturing PMI rose to 44.2 for November, up from October’s 43.1, which is a six-month high.

However, it’s still some way below the 50-point mark showing stagnation, indicating the sector continued to contract.

🇪🇺Eurozone manufacturing activity contracted at a slower pace

🏭 Manufacturing PMI rose to 44.2 in Nov, up from 43.1

📈 This was above the preliminary reading of 43.8#EURUSD 🔼 0.08% #DAX 🔼 0.64%#tradingdotcomuk #MarketUpdate
RW: 70.53% of retail clients lose money.

— UK (@tradingdotcomuk) December 1, 2023

The PMI survey also found that eurozone manufacturers continued to cut their prices, as their import costs fell again.

That could add to the deflationary pressures in the euro area, where inflation has tumbled to 2.4%.

Average fixed mortgage rates have dropped again

Data provider Moneyfacts has just confirmed that mortgage rates are continuing to ease.

They say:

  • The average 2-year fixed residential mortgage rate today is 6.04%. This is down from an average rate of 6.05% on Thursday.

  • The average 5-year fixed residential mortgage rate today is 5.65%. This is down from an average rate of 5.66% on Thursday.

Back in July, the average two-year fixed mortgage rate hit 6.66%, the highest since 2008.

But since then, market expectations for UK interest rates have fallen (see chart at 8.47am), leading to the drop in mortgage rates since the summer.

FTSE 100 starts December with a rally

In the City, the stock market has started December with solid gains.

The FTSE 100 shares index has gained 67 points, or 0.9%, to hit 7520 points, the highest level for the blue-chip index in over two weeks.

Mining stocks are leading the risers, with iron ore-to-diamonds producer Anglo American up 6.3%, and copper miner Antofagasta gaining 4.1%.

Housebuilders’ shares are also higher after this morning’s news that price rose (seasonally-adjusted, anyway) in November, with Berkeley Group up 2% and Taylor Wimpey up 1.7%.

Last night, the US Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at its highest level since January 2022, lifting optimism among investors.

Sophie Lund-Yates, lead equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, says:

“The FTSE 100 has regained some confidence from investors, helping to erase losses of recent days. The unexpected increase in house prices helps support the builders and also paints a picture of an economy with a reasonable pulse. Optimism is also being brought over from the US.

The US market is well and truly behaving like we are at peak interest rates in an early Christmas present for investors.

The more UK-focused FTSE 250 index (of medium-sized companies) is up 0.5%.

Bloomberg: Ryanair finds suspect engine components

Ryanair Holdings has said it found unauthorized parts in two aircraft engines, Bloomberg reports.

This makes the budget carrier the latest airline to be caught up in the distribution of components backed by falsified certification documents.

Bloomberg explains:

The suspect parts were discovered during scheduled maintenance checks in Texas and Brazil over the past few months and have since been removed from the engines, Chief executive officer Michael O’Leary said in an interview in Dublin on Thursday.

Ryanair finds unauthorized parts in two aircraft engines, CEO Michael O’Leary says, becoming the latest major airline caught up in the distribution of components backed by falsified certification document

— Bloomberg (@business) December 1, 2023

This issue has been brewing in the airline industry for some months.

In September, the US Federal Aviation Administration issued an alert that unapproved parts might be installed in certain General Electric model CF6 jet engines, and urged owners to inspect their planes or inventories for the parts.

The FAA says UK-based AOG Technics sold bushings for GE Model CF6 engines without having FAA approval (details here).

By October, the Independent reported that almost 100 aircraft had been grounded, as regulators and airlines scrambled to assess the scale of the issue.