UK budget report 2015: Live Blog

<p>Welcome to City Index’s Live Blog on Budget Day. Our team of market experts comprises our Chief Global Strategist Ashraf Laidi, Chief Market Strategist Joshua […]</p>

Welcome to City Index’s Live Blog on Budget Day. Our team of market experts comprises our Chief Global Strategist Ashraf Laidi, Chief Market Strategist Joshua Raymond, experienced market analyst Ken Odeluga, and other industry analysts, traders and commentators. They’ll be guiding you through the budget speech as it happens and we’ll also be bringing you all the reaction live from the trading floor.

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UK Budget 2015: key points

  • UK GDP upgraded to 2.5% (2015/16) and 2.3% (2016/15)
  • UK inflation to fall to 0.2% (2015/16), before hitting 2% target in 2019
  • UK unemployment to fall to 5.3% (2015/16) and remain flat
  • Public sector net borrowing to fall to £75.3bn (2015/16)
    • Falls to 39.4bn (16/17)
    • Will reach a surplus of £5.2bn in (18/19)
  • Income tax allowance to rise to £10,800 (2015/16), then £11,000 from 2016
  • Launches Help-to-Buy ISA for first-time buyers – 25% top up on savings
  • £1.3bn investment made to North Sea oil sector, boosting some energy stocks

Live blog

4.00pm

That’s it for this year’s live budget blog. Thanks for joining us. Why not catch up with what else is moving the markets in our Market News & Analysis section?

Our live blog will be back to cover the 2015 General Election from the beginning of May.

3.35pm

Joshua Raymond, City Index’s Chief Market Strategist: And so as many analysts, reporters and individuals focus on the fine print of the 2015 Budget Speech, traders of the FTSE will be happy to see that the benchmark UK 100 index has rallied over 100pts on the day and now looks primed for another assault on the crucial 6950-7000 level. Financial stocks such as Standard Chartered and Hargreaves Lansdown are adding the most to the index with Fresnillo, the precious metal miner, the top loser on the day.

FTSE 100 DFT
FTSE sectors
UK Budget 2015 winners and losers

3.20pm

Ken Odeluga, City Index’s Market Analyst: Here’s a chart showing a variant of the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) regular Producer Price Index.

The Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) regular Producer Price Index

The data from all industries except from the UK oil and ‘materials’ sectors (mostly miners), were stripped out.

The readings were annualised and plotted against the price of crude oil pumped out of the North Sea, also annualised.

The effect of oil prices falling below the costs of getting that oil onshore has made doing business in the region unviable for many companies, whilst pushing the indebtedness of smaller firms to critical levels.

Investment in the region has stalled, partly because the North Sea (AKA the ‘UK Continental Basin’), is one of the most mature in the world, and now one of the least attractive to invest in.

But the investments are currently worth around £5bn a year to the UK government and the industry employs around 450,000 people in the UK.

Oil output from North Sea fields has slipped to its lowest level since production began in the mid-1970s.

North Sea investments worth around £25bn are currently unsanctioned as companies have been waiting for the government to intervene.

Chancellor George Osborne introduced an Investment Allowance in The Budget to boost the UK oil industry

  • Reduction in a supplementary tax charge to 20% from 30%
  • Cut in the Petroleum Revenue Tax to 35% from next year, from 50% now

2.45pm

2.38pm

Key highlights of the 2015 budget

2.25pm

2.10pm

City Index’s Michael Willis: No major movements from stocks as a result of the budget as it looks like George Osborne met market expectations on most issues. A cut in Petroleum Revenue Tax from 50% to 35% has kept oil stocks in broadly positive territory; however, gains remain modest.

Oil share prices

In the housing sector, Taylor Wimpey has picked up momentum following the announcement that the Government will help first time buyers with a new Help-to-Buy ISA, contributing £50 to every £200 saved by would be homeowners. The stock has sharply risen and seen a spike in volume compared to the 10-day average in the last 30 minutes.

Taylor Wimpey share prices

Another expected tax reduction in the beverages sector has boosted Diageo modestly. We’ve seen increased volumes in the stock over the announcement that there’ll be reductions in beer, cider and scotch whisky duty and wine duty remaining frozen. Something to celebrate (in moderation) for consumers and investors alike.

Diageo share prices

1.59pm

Joshua Raymond, City Index’s Chief Market Strategist: Here are the revisions to public-sector net borrowing compared to previous budget forecasts. It shows that borrowing will fall in the next year to £75.3bn and £39.4bn in 2016/17.

This fall was expected but I had thought borrowing might drop as low as £73bn in 2015 and £38bn in 2016.

Borrowing

1.53pm

Stay tuned as we’ll be posting a key highlights graphic very soon so you can get all the important info in bite size.

1.49pm

1.47pm

Joshua Raymond, City Index’s Chief Market Strategist: Here are some of the key projections that have been revised by the Office of Budget and Responsibility that you need to know. I think this makes the Bank of England less hawkish than a few months ago.

Economic data

1.40pm

Well that’s it. Not a record-breaking speech by any means, but plenty to digest – including the government’s plans to provide ISAs for first-time buyers in the property market. If you’d like to read the whole document, here it is: UK Budget 2015 (PDF document).

Stay with us, though, for our analysis and reactions on the budget announcement’s impact.

1.32pm

1.30pm

1.26pm

Joshua Raymond, City Index’s Chief Market Strategist: This is a fairly low headline budget so far, which is no real surprise given the election is merely six weeks away. The big takeaway for me is the fact that UK inflation will be lower than previously forecast, and for longer. That could boost consumer spending in the near term. However, UK GDP was upgraded less than expected this year and downgraded in line with expectations in the long term. So lower inflation and lower growth translates to interest rate hikes being pushed further afield.

1.23pm

1.20pm

Ashraf Laidi, City Index’s Chief Global Strategist:

Falling borrowing – UK Chancellor Osborne sees UK Government borrowing falling to £90.2 bn, £1bn lower than the Autumn Statement in December. Borrowing will further decline to £75.3bn in 2015-16, then £39.4bn the following year.

Falling debt – Debt as a share of GDP is seen falling to 80.4% in 2014-15; 80.2% in 2015-16, 79.8% in 2016-17; and 77.8% in 2017-18.

Until a surplus is reached in 2018/19 – Osborne sees UK govt deficit 5% happening in 2015. The budget deficit is expected to reach 4% of GDP in 2015-16; followed by 2% in 2016/2017. A budget surplus is forecasted for 2018-19 at +0.2% of GDP.

1.15pm

1.10pm

City Index’s Michael Willis: A number of major oil stocks have still been on the rise this morning. Gains are less impressive compared to yesterday’s in the sector, as traders await an announcement on a potential tax cut for oil producers. The mood is still positive, but how much can the government actually offer? The recent spike in tax receipts gives the treasury room to extend more of a helping hand than might previously have been expected. This is one to watch closely over the coming hours.

Oil prices

1.04pm

1.01pm

12.59pm

Joshua Raymond, City Index’s Chief Market Strategist: The squeeze on public spending is set to end a year earlier than planned, with public spending set to increase in 2019/20.

12.56pm

12.54pm

12.52pm

12.51pm

Joshua Raymond, City Index’s Chief Market Strategist: The main headline so far is lower than expected near-term growth upgrade and lower UK inflation for three years.

12.46pm

12.43pm

12.42pm

12.40pm

12.36pm

12.34pm

12.26pm

The time for speculation is over – George Osborne is set to take his place at the podium and deliver his speech in the next few minutes. Stay tuned for our live commentary.

12.21pm

Joshua Raymond, City Index’s Chief Market Strategist: Key stocks to look at

Key stocks to look at

11.51am

11.21am

Ashraf Laidi, City Index’s Chief Global Strategist: GBP/USD at five-year lows. If Labour is looking for points of criticism in today’s Budget Statement, they can refer to the drop in UK average earnings for Jan, slowing to 1.6% y/y from 1.7% y/y, but that would be a moot point as earnings growth has tripled from the 2014 lows. But earnings growth adjusted for inflation remains at its highest level since 2008, after breaking into positive territory in late 2014. Prolonged declines in UK unemployment rate and falling inflation have helped shrink unused capacity (slack) in the economy.

…but pound remains strong. The charts below highlight the accelerating decline in GBP/USD, hitting five-year lows today at $1.4658. GBP selloff was partly caused by softer-than-expected earnings growth, unemployment rate remaining unchanged at 5.7%. The release of this month’s BoE meeting minutes made reference to GBP strength prolonging the slowdown in inflation. The chart below shows GBP remains strong on a trade-weighted index, when including the tumbling euro. If BoE policy makers are truly concerned with divergences in UK monetary policy with Eurozone, then further GBP strength would curb BoE hawkishness and trigger further GBP selling against USD.

GBP/USD monthly

11.05am

Ken Odeluga, City Index’s Market Analyst: With the Chancellor of the Exchequer now widely expected to use a bank levy hike to signal no let-up in constraints to ensure the banking sector doesn’t go back to its old ways, here are some key facts about the ‘banking tax’.

  • The Conservatives introduced the bank levy in 2011
  • Income from ordinary deposits and UK borrowing are exempt
  • First £20bn of a bank’s taxable debt is also exempt
  • It’s a two-tiered tax—a higher ‘full rate’ on long-term ‘chargeable’ liabilities, and a ‘half rate’ on shorter-term liabilities
  • The levy has been raised four times: the full rate was initially 0.075%, then raised to 0.078% in May 2011, to 0.088% in 2012, to 0.142% in 2013’s Budget and to 0.156% in the 2013 Autumn Statement
  • The ‘half rate’ was last raised to 0.078% from 0.071%
  • With an election weeks away, the ‘full rate’ could rise at least by the same 1.4 basis points as the last hike, suggesting it will go to 0.17%, perhaps higher

With UK banks already well-adjusted to the levy, plus their stocks having been hit hard over the last year, prospects of a hike aren’t worrying investors too much.

RBS shares are trading 0.3% higher and Barclays is up 0.8%.

Standard Chartered trades 6.2% better after Barclays changed its recommendation in the stock to ‘overweight’ from neutral.

Lloyds is one of the few big banks whose shares are weak today, trading down 0.5%.

11.00am

10.56am

The BBC’s Robert Peston highlights how austerity over the past five years has hit the public workforce.

10.37am

Ken Odeluga, City Index’s Market Analyst: Chancellor George Osborne’s widely trailed assistance to the UK’s North Sea oil producers and services firms may have shifted the spotlight away a bit from a raft of further claw backs against other sectors likely to be announced today.

The Chancellor may turn the screws on big UK-based banks like RBS, Lloyds and Barclays and UK-listed Standard Chartered and HSBC, by increasing the rate of the annual Bank Levy.

The government introduced the Bank Levy—essentially an additional tax on banks—soon after many had to be bailed out with the public purse to the tune of billions.

The levy is meant to discourage excessive employee bonuses and generally foster financial discipline by reducing risky behaviour and attitudes and questionable spending.

The Bank Levy was and remains intensely political.

It has been a useful tool for the current Conservative government to counter accusations that it favours the very wealthy and ‘Big Business’ over ordinary people.

This Budget is also likely to include new taxations on multinationals that divert profits overseas to avoid taxes.

10.35am

Joshua Raymond, City Index’s Chief Market Strategist: The GBP hits a near 5-year low against the US Dollar on the back of those BoE minutes, which highlighted concerns over GBP strength on low inflation for longer.

The translation from this essentially could mean the UK Central Bank refrains from hiking rates early next year and now moves to try and talk down the pound. A stronger pound makes exports more expensive for other non-GBP countries, which could hurt growth (especially to the Eurozone – the UK’s largest trading partner), and exacerbate deflationary pressures as exporters are forced to cut their prices to boost sales abroad.

GBP/USD DFT

10.32am

10.19am

10.06am

9.31am

9.07am

8.54am

Ken Odeluga, City Index’s Market Analyst: Oil firms buoy FTSE amid high hopes.

UK blue-chip oil sector firms kept the FTSE 100 benchmark rallying yesterday, at one point making it the only major stock market in Europe to trade in the black.

Energy sector investors look to be buying in advance of one of the best-leaked features of UK Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget on Wednesday: he is likely to announce an effective tax cut for the sector, which is struggling with rising costs amid the oil price slump.

BG Group shares rose 18.3p to 842p, Centrica added 5% more to its gains on Monday, closing yesterday at 251.2p; Royal Dutch Shell’s B shares gained 43p to 2068.5p.

One of the most indebted and beleaguered FTSE oil firms is Tullow. Its stock rose 6% yesterday.

But with the FTSE 350 Oil & Gas Production Index still down the better part of 25% since June 2014, and tax simplification seen likelier than outright breaks, the sector will have some head-scratching to do if it wants to capitalise on Osborne’s probably subtle changes today.

FTSE 350 oil index

8.25am

Joshua Raymond, City Index’s Chief Market Strategist: We have some important data and information out at 9.30am this morning which could well give Osborne a welcome boost ahead of today’s speech.

Today’s major data and announcements (outside of the budget):

  • 9.30am – UK Labour data (unemployment rate, average weekly earnings)
  • 9.30am – Bank of England MPC minutes
  • 6.00pm – FOMC decision

8.20am

8.03am

Joshua Raymond, City Index’s Chief Market Strategist: The FTSE 100 has opened higher by 23pts to trade at 6860, with most of the gains led by financial and energy stocks. Here’s a quick snapshot of the top movers. top movers ftse

8.01am

Good morning and welcome to Budget Day. A quick reminder that the Chancellor George Osborne is set to stand up and deliver his final budget speech of this current parliament at 12.30pm today.

5.48pm

That’s it for today. Join us again for 8.00am tomorrow for more live updates.

5.46pm

5.38pm

5.30pm

5.28pm

Ken Odeluga, City Index’s Market Analyst: Osborne may grease the oil sector, slap the ‘tax-efficient’ and singe pension providers further.

Here are the broad policy themes most relevant for the corporate sector that the UK Chancellor is likely push in his speech tomorrow, along with some of the biggest firms they can be expected to impact.

  • The most heavily-trailed business-related sop undoubtedly relates to the beleaguered oil sector — help for Britain’s oil and gas industry after the plunge in prices. ‘Taxation simplification’ rather than direct aid is likelier. Smaller E&P firms with bigger leverage would benefit more, e.g. Faroe Petroleum, Ithaca Energy and Serica Energy. UK oil services firms, like John Wood Group, which tend to be SMEs, could see better sentiment too.
  • But, on the other hand, Osborne has indicated he will take away from the corporate sector — with a new tax on multinationals that shift profits overseas to avoid tax — the effect of this will hit hardest across the Atlantic, on Apple, Google, Amazon, Starbucks, but Vodafone and others could be caught in that dragnet too.
  • Details of an increase on the income tax threshold may appear — though this may turn out to be relatively marginal for consumer spending.
  • However, pensioners may be given freedom to cash in annuities in exchange for lump sums. This implies increased pressure on firms already re-grouping from Osborne’s annuity bombshell last year — Aviva, Friends Life, Legal & General, Standard Life, Aberdeen Asset Management, to name a few.

5.22pm

A bit of budget day fun

5.17pm

5.10pm

Ken Odeluga, City Index’s Market Analyst: Ahead of what’s likely to be the UK’s tightest general election in living memory, UK Chancellor George Osborne has, on the face of it, one of the narrowest gaps between his toes and the despatch box, so to speak.

Despite an estimated £3bn windfall in 2015/16 from payments on inflation-linked bond savings (the oil price plunge has nixed much residual inflation) Osborne has largely ruled out an outright Budget bonanza.

That means no headline direct taxation cuts.

And that tends to reduce the chances that consumers will be fired-up a notch to spend more, giving a fillip to the UK’s retailers, especially supermarkets like Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, who need all the help they can get at the moment.

But naturally, Osborne will still want to stress the economic achievements won by his Conservative Party voters seven weeks before the election.
That raises the prospects that further finely balanced and shrewdly judged measures will be announced from the UK’s chief finance minister, whose adroitness and public finesse has appeared to increase noticeably since 2010.

4.53pm

Neil Looker, City Index’s Chief Forex Dealer: The Chancellor will no doubt bring our attention to the fiscal improvements of £2bn this year that have seen his ‘long-term economic plan’ reduce the deficit by £7bn since he took office. With the election approaching in May the Chancellor will either continue along the deficit reduction path or use a targeted approach to possibly attract the ‘undecided’ voters. The media suggests this number could be up to 50% of the population and, according to the polls, is made up of disgruntled former coalition supporters, the youth generation and women.

The City may well be disappointed with a package that will likely boost lower incomes, along with pledges to ease up on austerity in the future.

Tomorrow will have minimal impact on the proud pound. But, as pre-election uncertainty heightens as we approach 7th of May expect some extreme volatility similar to what we experienced with the Scottish elections last year.

4.52pm

Ashraf Laidi, City Index’s Chief Global Strategist: Rising income tax receipts led to the biggest boost to UK public finance balance since 2008 as top rate taxpayers, who had deferred their self-assessment until the 50% tax rate, submitted their returns. The boost in tax receipts pushed the January surplus to £8.8bn against last year’s £6.5bn. This means Chancellor Osborne’s budget is on track to meet the full-year borrowing target. For the current financial year, the government has borrowed £74bn, £6bn less than this time last year. More breathing space means helpful giveaways ahead of the May 7 election will back Chancellor Osborne, especially as earnings growth is back above inflation and GDP growth is set to be the highest in the G7 in 2015. The question ahead includes the extent of tightening required ahead to balance the books.

Inflation remaining below 1.0% will help reduce the government’s borrowing bill ahead. And if the BoE refrains from cutting rates at all this year (likely possibility), then market rates will weaken further and further sterling weakness will be needed to help address the other large deficit — the trade balance.

UK net public sector borrowing

4.13pm

Our Chief Market Strategist Joshua Raymond: Tullow Oil shares the biggest riser on the day within the FTSE 100 with shares +5% after positive update to its Kenyan exploration. Shares lifted from eight-year lows and a nine-day consecutive losing streak. With North Sea oil stocks perhaps one of the most sensitive stock sectors for the 2015 budget – and uncertainty as to how the Chancellor can reignite the fledgling industry – it will be interesting to see whether investors look to cash in profits early ahead of tomorrow’s budget speech.

Tullow oil chart

1.58pm

Thoughts from the trading floor from City Index’s Jimmy Bachelor: With WTI Crudes bulging storage tanks and oversupply in the U.S and Middle East, the benchmark price is dragging down Brent Crude to even more dangerous levels of non-profitability. North Sea operators will be crying out for some kind of Tax relief and support in tomorrow’s budget. For many it costs north of $80 a barrel to break even, with the price currently standing at $52.50.

Tax cuts aren’t enough: The oil sector does pay higher tax levels than other industries, however, the problem with trying to prop up an ailing industry, which sees its product 50% lower than a year ago is that it’s too big a hole to fill with tax cuts alone. Osborne can extend credit for exploration but with a mature basin which may be coming to the end of its life in many areas, he’ll have to be sure A: that oil will head back to $100 a barrel and B: that it’s going to be around long enough to recoup the investment. Either way, even with an industry that employs 380 000 across the UK, it’s not a great vote winner!

It’s a catch-22 situation. The Government needs to stimulate exploration and increase production to create jobs and maintain a healthy stream of revenue into the Chancellor’s coffers, meanwhile the oil companies are cutting exploration and jobs because they’re heavily in the red, but with many of the oil fields in the Middle East able to operate at around $10 to $15 dollars a barrel, one feels it’s more of a ‘hit and hope’ than a sound plan to kickstart the injured industry.

1.24pm

Our Chief Market Strategist Joshua Raymond: This is the final budget speech before May’s general election and consequently, this speech will be laden with many electoral sub plots. On the one hand, parliament dissolves at the end of this month as MPs return to their constituencies to campaign for the general election on 7th May. So this speech gives the Conservatives an early opportunity to give their economic manifesto a boost. But, we have a coalition government and the Lib Dems are likely to object to any announcement which will boost the Tories above the Lib Dems. That said, with the Lib Dems fighting for third place in recent polls, this is their last opportunity to achieve some of the 2010 electoral mandate. The Lib Dems could combine with the Tories to pre-emptively counter what many see as Labour’s likely electoral pledges. We have already seen this with the move to boost minimum wages.

We also know the Chancellor has already pledged there will be no giveaways, no gimmicks in this budget. This isn’t surprising as he is trying to lower expectations but the fact remains that the UK economy is growing more than expected, inflation is lower than expected and the economy is the Conservatives’ crucial party pledge. So Osborne should be in his element on Wednesday. The last three budgets (including autumn statement) have contained some good surprises and so I still expect a headline-grabbing announcement, probably on tax.

Here are some of the key themes I am expecting:

Lower borrowing opens door to tax cuts

  • The Office of Budget and Responsibility should announce £6bn in lower borrowing forecasts for next year thanks in part to lower than expected inflation and the slump in oil prices
  • Lower borrowing give the Chancellor room to announce tax cuts which could give Tories an edge over Labour’s own likely manifesto-led tax cut pledges
    • National Insurance – could be announced as part of Tory manifesto but if announced now, would be a big surprise and give the Tories the big tax cut headline its MPs in swing constituencies need. If there is a major surprise, this could be it.
    • Income tax threshold – Could be hikes to £11,000, which would give 27m people a £200 tax cut
    • Inheritance tax cut – very unlikely in this budget as has faced stringent Lib Dem opposition, so could be saved for later this month. Seen to be reducing inheritance tax bill on properties worth up to £2m by £140,000. It would also raise the nil-band rate to keep in line with house price increases. This is a policy purely aimed at the wealthy and predominantly south east. I think this could also be aimed as a sweetener to those hurt by the recent stamp duty changes which has sapped house price growth at the top of the market (predominantly London)

North Sea oil investment

  • The 50% collapse in crude oil prices has dramatically hurt North Sea oil firms
  • Expect to see greater investment in the region via transport, infrastructure
  • Could also see more employee benefits for North Sea oil with 400,000 employed directly by North Sea oil activities
  • North Sea oil is worth around £35bn to the UK economy

1.14pm

City Index’s Michael Willis: Oil stocks are looking buoyant this afternoon ahead of tomorrow’s budget, despite a further fall in crude prices which has damaged the profitability of many firms in the sector over the past 6 months. Investors seem to expect the government to reduce the higher taxes imposed on oil producers tomorrow following hints from the Treasury. This would go a long way to helping producers in the North Sea region remain competitive in a sector with tightening margins.

Oil stocks

Budget Day 2015 introduction – What should we expect?

Mr Osborne has already announced his spending plans for 2015/6, and has promised to balance the books by 2017/8, rubbishing reports of pre-election giveaways.

This will require £30bn in either spending cuts or tax rises in the first years of the next Parliament.

What’s the point of it with the election so close?

This year’s budget falls weeks before Parliament adjourns for the election campaign. If the election does result in a change of government, there is likely to be another budget this year.

How long will it last?

The longest ever budget speech was delivered by William Gladstone in 1853, who took a colossal four hours and 45 minutes to deliver his plans.

Gladstone’s fierce rival Benjamin Disraeli holds the record for the shortest ever speech though – a brief 45 minutes – in 1867.

Former PM Gordon Brown delivered a swift budget in the boom year of 2000, taking just 51 minutes.

So, the answer to how long this one will last is anyone’s guess!

What sectors are most likely to be affected by the budget?

Budget Day can have a significant impact on a number of markets:

Oil and gas Will there more tax breaks to encourage investment?
Stocks to watch: BG Group, Petrofac, BP, Tullow Oil, John Wood
Housing Could there be more investment for new homes?
Stocks to watch: Barratt Development, Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey PLC
Gaming Is there going to be stronger taxation?
Stocks to watch: Ladbrokes, William Hill, Betfair
Tobacco Will cigarette duty be raised again?
Stocks to watch: British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco
Beverage Further cuts to alcohol duty on the horizon?
Stocks to watch: SABMiller, Diageo, Carlsberg, AB InBev

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