The way forward?

Economic Week In Review | Issue 372 | 27 March 2023

UK construction and property

  • Housing retrofit | Housing Associations will share a £1.8bn retrofit fund to improve the energy efficiency of homes and public buildings. The Government estimates that 115,000 homes will benefit from the scheme.
  • Investment market | According to real estate financial services firm Crestbridge, real estate is expected to experience some slowdown this year, but will be stable overall. Investors who pull out of the market will equal those who start investing.
  • Health and safety | Unite reported that unannounced visits by inspectors have fallen by 31% over the last eight years. In London visits were 46% lower. There has also been a significant (51%) decline in the number of enforcement notices after inspections. Unite questioned whether the industry really is twice as safe today as it was eight years ago.
  • Covid fraud | Less than 1% of the total £1.1bn Covid-loan fraud has been recovered. Construction News has found that more than 4,800 construction firms have been found to have made fraudulent claims. The total equates to 1.8% of all bounce-back loans which were issued
  • Single stairs | London Fire Brigade has supported proposals for all new residential buildings above 30m to have two staircases, and said that existing buildings with a single staircase will still be safe if they have appropriate, and functional fire safety measures. The Chartered Institute of Building has asked for the proposals to be extended to 18m buildings.

Materials and commodities

  • Oil | Sanctioned Russian oil is being held in a “shadow” fleet of tankers, with some of the older, poorly maintained boats running aground or drifting out of control. Estimates of the size of the fleet vary from 400 to in excess of 600, roughly a fifth of the overall crude oil fleet.
  • Crewless boats | Fertiliser giant Yara has been testing semi-autonomous ships twice weekly for the past several months. By the end of the year, the onboard staff will be reduced from five to two, and then will be autonomous within two years. Without a crew, there will be more room for cargo.
  • Merchant sales | The Builders’ Merchant Federation reported that sales volumes were 16.6% lower in January 2023 than a year earlier, although sales value was higher due to inflation (although once the additional trading day in 2023 was removed, sales values were 4.6% lower).

UK economy

  • Rates | The Bank of England increased interest rates to 4.25% after inflation unexpectedly rose in February, and turmoil in the global banking market. It warned that further price rises would create extra pressure on the rate.
  • Consumer confidence | Retail sales volumes increased by 1.2% in February despite concerns over inflation and rates. The GfK consumer confidence index also increased by three points to -40 (the index is rarely positive) when asked about the future economic situation. However, data from Nationwide shows that households had to pay 12% more for essentials than a year ago and almost 40% of people have used credit cards to cover the cost of items such as childcare and public transport.
  • UK business growth | The S&P Global flash index for the UK showed an easing from 52.1 in February to 52.2 in March.

Global economy

  • Eurozone business activity increased by more than expected, with growth driven by the services sector. S&P’s Global flash index for the region rose to a 10-month high of 54.1 in March, from 52 in February.


  • Modular reactors | After support for small modular reactors (SMRs) was announced in the Spring Budget, a UK and EU-based company developing SMRs announced raising equity of nearly £900m. Among its plans is the establishment of mixed plutonium-uranium oxide (MOX) production plants in France and the UK.

Friday to Friday

Price / Index Week %
Annual %
FTSE 100 7,405.45 0.95 -1.04
FTSE 250 18,493.83 0.12 -11.75
Nikkei 27,385.25 0.19 -2.72
CSI 300 4,027.05 1.72 -3.53
S&P 500 3,970.99 1.39 -12.59
Nasdaq 11,823.96 1.66 -16.55
CAC 40 7,015.10 1.30 7.04
Dax 14,957.23 1.28 4.55
$ per £ 1.2224 0.68 -7.37
€ per £ 1.1359 -0.40 -5.36
Gold £/oz 1,617.56 -0.91 8.88
Brent Oil $/barrel 75.91 4.03 -37.08

Weekly Summary

The industry is in flux. Funding of projects has changed, specification is being updated and material sourcing needs careful consideration and planning.

The conclusion of these changes is not clear, and neither are their impacts on projects and how the industry must deal with them.

It is, however, plain to see that issues such as construction’s long-standing skills crisis can no longer be ignored, and that each project must track its unique pressures.

Author contact

Rachel Coleman
Rachel Coleman,
Associate Research Analyst