The long-awaited 'rebalancing' of the UK economy might be happening, next week's numbers could show.
Thursday's purchasing managers' survey is likely to confirm last month's news that manufacturing activity is now growing again – possibly at the fastest rate since April.
Other figures, though, could show that the consumer is still in the doldrums. On Tuesday, the CBI is expected to say that most retailers think sales have fallen year on year. The CBI said the same last month, only to be contradicted by strong official sales numbers. However, the CBI's message might be corroborated by GfK/NOP's survey of consumer sentiment. Although this might show a small increase in confidence – thanks to falling inflation – optimism will remain very low by historic standards; the organisation described sentiment last month as "seriously depressed".
This message could be supported by Bank of England figures on Wednesday. Last month, these showed a record net repayment of consumer credit. Any repeat of that would increase fears that households will respond to the relaxation of the squeeze on real incomes by repaying debt rather than by increasing spending.
News from the housing market might also be gloomy. Although Bank figures could show a small rise in mortgage approvals, this won't be enough to give a significant boost to house prices. The Nationwide Building Society is likely to say that these were more or less flat in February, which means they are the same level as a year ago.
There will, though, be something curious about the UK's manufacturing upturn – it is happening without credit growth. The Bank is likely to confirm that companies are still paying down debt – and, indeed, that bank lending overall is falling in year-on-year terms.
This creditless recovery is not confined to the UK, though. A similar thing is happening in the eurozone. Purchasing managers could say that the manufacturing recession is almost over. However, on Monday the European Central Bank is expected to say that the stock of bank lending to the private sector has fallen for the third month running.
It is, however, in the US that signs of manufacturing growth are most convincing, and this might remain the case next week. The Institute for Supply Management is expected to report a strong rise in output on Thursday, which could corroborate Wednesday's durable goods orders numbers which could show a third successive monthly increase.
The US upturn, though, is not happening in all sectors. Tuesday's S&P/Case-Shiller index is likely to show that house prices have fallen by almost 4 per cent in the last 12 months, which would mean they are one-third below 2006's peak level.
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