Investment expert Janet Mui shares cautious optimism for year ahead

Business leaders had a first-hand steer on the UK’s economic prospects in a seminar with a global investment expert.

Economist Janet Mui, Head of Market Analysis at wealth manager RBC Brewin Dolphin, was guest speaker at the breakfast briefing on the University of Southampton Science Park hosted by HWB Chartered Accountants.

An award-winning industry commentator, Janet is a macroeconomic strategist who provides guidance on billions of pounds’ worth of global investment portfolios.

Outlining her message to businesses, she told the attendees: “From what I see in the financial markets there are reasons to be optimistic. The fact that inflation appears to have peaked removes huge uncertainty. It has been coming down in tandem in the US, UK and Eurozone.

“The question is whether or not this will be a sustainable trend in the UK, which has seen the highest inflation rate of all advanced western countries. Inflation is the main issue that suppresses growth.

“It is now expected to get closer to the Bank of England target of two per cent, even though the journey could be bumpy.

“In turn, financial markets expect two or three interest rate cuts in the UK in the second half of this year.

“Data suggests people are less gloomy. Even though we are in a technical recession, it may already be over. The Office for National Statistics has a history of upward revision of past data. It’s certainly not a deep, prolonged recession.

“Although confidence can fluctuate, people are relieved inflation is down. It seems we’re heading in the right direction with consumer confidence less negative than it has been.”

With an eye to the general election this year, Janet said: “There is limited headroom for either party to pursue any bold plans for the economy.

“UK public debt is at 96.5% of GDP and under current government plans, tax revenue is forecast to rise to 37.7% of GDP by 2027-28, the highest level of tax ever seen in the UK.

“Taking all factors into consideration, I strongly advise anyone in a business to keep a close eye on what’s happening with inflation and interest rates and take advice ahead of investment decisions.”

Michaela Johns, HWB Director, said: “Janet gave us some fascinating insight into the key macro-economic trends and prospects we can expect for the rest of 2024 and how that may impact the activities of businesses across the country including those firms within our client base.

“It’s going to be a pivotal few months as people look to understand the latest inflationary trends and interest rate movements and how they affect consumer spending, wage growth, property prices, mortgage rates and approvals, productivity and investment.”

On a polling platform before and after Janet’s presentation, audience members were asked what factors they most fear will harm the UK economy. Responses highlighted skills gaps, debt levels, low productivity, labour market pressures, global events and the impact of the tax burden.

Among the audience were senior managers and directors from fields including construction, recruitment, property design and renovation, insolvency services, management consultancy, workplace equipment supply, housing associations and academy schools.

Janet is a familiar face in media interviews discussing the impact of macroeconomic issues on businesses and individuals.

As a voting member of RBC Brewin Dolphin’s asset allocation committee, she helps determine the investment strategies affecting ‘assets under management’ in portfolios currently worth more than £55 billion.

In 2021, Janet was named Best Industry Commentator at the City of London Wealth Management Awards.

Chartered Accountants HWB, headquartered at Chandler’s Ford near Southampton, provide business and tax advice.

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