UK Economy Slows Sharply Ahead of Election, Brexit Talks

By FeaturesDow Jones Newswires

The U.K. economy slowed sharply in the first quarter as consumers pared back spending, a warning sign on growth ahead of a national election in June and the start of Britain's exit talks with the European Union.

The British economy expanded at a quarterly rate of 0.3% in the first quarter of 2017, the U.K.'s Office for National Statistics said Friday, less than half the speed of the 0.7% expansion recorded in the final three months of last year. It was the weakest quarterly expansion since the first quarter of 2016, and fell short of the 0.4% expected by economists polled by The Wall Street Journal.

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On an annualized basis, growth slowed to 1.2% from 2.7%, the ONS said.

The slowdown was driven by softness in services, especially retail, and disappointingly slow growth in manufacturing, which had been benefiting from an accelerating world economy and a weakened pound.

The data highlight how British consumers, whose resilience in the months after June's Brexit vote powered the economy in 2016, have been reining in spending as a bout of inflation stoked by a battered currency squeezes household budgets.

Write to Jason Douglas at jason.douglas@wsj.com and Wiktor Szary at wiktor.szary@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 28, 2017 04:53 ET (08:53 GMT)