UK economy grows more than expected in May, helped by autos rebound

Britain’s economy grew by more than expected in May, helped by a rebound in car production after Brexit-related shutdowns, according to figures that will ease concerns about the extent of the country’s slowdown.

Overall output expanded 0.3% after contracting by 0.4% in April, the Office for National Statistics said, stronger than all forecasts in a Reuters poll that had pointed a rise of 0.1%.

“The economy returned to growth in the month of May, following the fall seen in April. This was mainly due to the partial recovery in car production,” ONS statistician Rob Kent-Smith said.

Car manufacturers in Britain brought forward their annual summer maintenance shutdowns to April to help dodge potential disruption in the aftermath of the original March 29 Brexit deadline, which has now been pushed back to October.

The Bank of England, worried about global trade tensions as well as Brexit uncertainty, forecast last month that economic output would flatline during the three months to June after growth of 0.5% in the first-quarter of the year.

Business surveys last week showed the world’s fifth-biggest economy lost momentum in June and might even have shrunk in the second quarter of 2019.

But Wednesday’s data suggested the economy might be on track to eke out a little growth in the second quarter.

Output in the three months to May was 0.3% higher than in the previous three-month period, helped by an upward revision to growth in March and again beating the consensus forecast for growth of 0.1%.

Compared with a year earlier, growth in May alone stood at 1.5%, stronger than the median poll forecast for 1.3%.