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Chinks of light in the all-pervading economic gloom

·1-min read
Some companies  are still cutting through the pessimism to deliver for investors   (CC0 Public Domain)
Some companies are still cutting through the pessimism to deliver for investors (CC0 Public Domain)

It is hard to recall a more sustained period of gloomy news about prospects for the economy and the markets — certainly since the 1970s.

Ever since Lehman Brothers fell over in September 2008 there has been barely a moment’s respite from the drumbeat of dread with the global financial crisis, Brexit, Covid and the Ukraine war all making their contributions to the pessimism.

And yet and yet.

They may only be straws in the wind but today we report on six British companies from a wide range of sectors — High Street stalwart WH Smith, hospitality giant Whitbread, publisher Bloomsbury, London estate agency Dexters, steel contractor Severfield and car retailer Motorpoint — that have all announced bumper financial results or trading that in most cases surpassed pre-Covid levels.

Perhaps they all reflect what may prove a brief window of hope between the lifting of pandemic curbs and the start of the cost of living crisis. But all are pretty upbeat about the months ahead.

When the Bank of England raises interest rates tomorrow the headlines will be “highest for nine years”. But even in the worst case scenario of a 0.5% rise, the cost of borrowing will still be the lowest since 1694 excepting the era of bizarre emergency rates over the past decade and a half.

Equally while yesterday’s focus was on the big squeeze on living standards, the fact the UK remains at full employment was barely remarked upon. Sometimes the glass really is half full.

These are early days but perhaps corporate Britain is better placed to ride out the coming challenges than we have given it credit for.

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