Facing up to risk

Economic Week In Review | Issue 273 29 March 2021

Property and construction news

  • Later living | A cross-party coalition of MPs, peers, trade associations, and service providers has written to the Prime Minister asking for the creation of a Later Living taskforce as expanding housing options to cater for later living is “beyond the remit” of the Department for Health and Social Care.
  • Commercial rents | Property owners collected 21% of rents due in the last quarter according to Re-Leased, a commercial property management platform. Retail continued to be the worst sector with a collection rate of 15%.
  • Green Homes | The scheme which was intended to deliver £2bn of home improvements has been scrapped. After early problems, the government committed to extending the deadline for applications by 12 months to 31st March 2022, but has now cancelled the extension.
  • Pre-qualifications | Build UK has launched its industry-wide pre-qualification common assessment scheme which intends to simplify a previously complex system. Balfour Beatty, Costain, HS2, Mace, Multiplex, and Skanska have all adopted the common assessment standard. The Construction Leadership Council has endorsed it and is encouraging its uptake in both the public and private sectors.
  • Thames Tideway | The ninth and final 53m-deep, central London shaft has been completed. Once the new sewer outfall structures are complete it will be the biggest new piece of embankment in London.

Materials and commodities

  • Shipping | The new build and second-hand markets have both seen increased activity recently as ship owners expect demand to increase.
  • Suez canal | One of the world’s major shipping routes was blocked by a ship that ran aground. Shipping delays risk raising oil prices as well as shipping costs. One-tenth of the world’s shipping by tonnage uses the man-made canal, with bulk carriers representing nearly 30% of traffic. If the rescue could not be made within two weeks, shippers faced the prospect of expensive, and risky diversions around Africa which is a much longer route. The ship was partially refloated in the early hours of Monday morning.

UK news

  • Inflation fell unexpectedly to 0.4% as high stock levels encouraged clothes retailers and second-hand car dealerships to cut prices. Economists had expected an increase following higher energy prices.
  • High streets lost 11,000 shops in 2020, with independent retailers fairing better. Local Data Company suggests that 18,000 more units could become empty this year.
  • Retail sales increased 2.1% in February, after a steep fall in January. According to the ONS sales are still 3.7% lower than a year ago.
  • Business activity returned to growth in March, led by fast growth in services. The flash UK PMI Composite Output Index reached 56.6, a seven-month high.
  • Furlough | The number of employers claiming furlough support increased by over 100,000 in January as the new lockdown started. 858,269 companies used the scheme.
  • Regional hubs | The government has announced new regional trade hubs in Belfast, Cardiff, Darlington, and Edinburgh to help small and local businesses access trade markets.

Global news

  • Eurozone business activity grew last month for the first time in six months. The flash Eurozone PMI Composite Output Index was 52.2 in March, up from 48.8 in February. Manufacturing set a record high at 62.4.
  • Jobless claims in the US fell to the lowest level since the beginning of the pandemic as the economy is opened up and vaccines take place at a rapid rate.
Tender Price Index

Published every six months, our Tender Price Index is an analysis of inflation price deviation in construction prices. Click on the link above to view our most recent Index.

Friday to Friday

Price / Index Week %
Annual %
FTSE 100 6,740.59 0.48 22.33
FTSE 250 21,486.73 0.31 45.58
Nikkei 29,176.70 -2.07 50.48
CSI 300 5,037.99 0.62 35.79
S&P 500 3,974.54 1.57 56.39
Nasdaq 13,138.72 -0.58 75.13
CAC 40 5,988.81 -0.15 37.63
Dax 14,748.94 0.88 53.12
$ per £ 1.3795 -0.54 11.75
€ per £ 1.1691 0.38 4.62
Gold £/oz 1,256.41 -0.13 -3.88
Brent Oil $/barrel 64.57 0.06 159.01

Weekly Summary

Supply chains have been a key talking point over the last year and their opaqueness means that it is often difficult to understand or see the risks and the potential bottlenecks. This week, supply chains are under intense focus with retailers and suppliers awaiting stock which is held in a traffic jam in the Suez canal. Quite rightly, many have been questioning the appropriateness of just-in-time business as well as trying to make the process clearer (as have we, in our latest Market Report).

It is disappointing to see that the government has cancelled the extension to the Green Homes Grant. In addition to the financial impacts for contractors, it will no doubt inhibit the UK’s sustainability aspiration and commitments if the energy efficiency of the UK’s existing building stock – particularly residential buildings – is not improved.

Author contact

Rachel Coleman
Rachel Coleman,
Associate Research Analyst