ECONOMISTS are now predicting a much-sharper fall in UK gross domestic product this quarter amid the coronavirus crisis than they did a month ago – forecasting a 17.5 per cent plunge in a poll published yesterday.

This is based on a median forecast in the poll of economists conducted by Reuters between Tuesday and Thursday. In a similar survey last month, economists had forecast a quarter-on-quarter decline in UK GDP of 13.1% in the three months to June.

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However, economists now see a sharper third-quarter recovery than they did a month ago. The median forecast is now that UK GDP will surge by 11.9% quarter-on-quarter in the three months to September as at least some of the lockdown measures put in place to slow the spread of Covid-19 are lifted.

Asked for a worst-case scenario projection for the second quarter, the median forecast from economists polled this week was for a 22.5% plunge in UK GDP.

In the poll of more than 70 economists, the median forecast is that the UK economy will contract by 7.7% over 2020 as a whole, before growing by 5.2% next year.

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Retail sales volumes in Great Britain plummeted by a record 18.1% month-on-month in April on a seasonally adjusted basis, figures published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics showed.

This was even steeper than the 16% decline forecast by economists polled by Reuters, and reflected the move to full lockdown announced by the UK Government on March 23.

Comparing April with the same month of last year, retail sales volumes were down by 22.6%.

Retail sales volumes had fallen by 5.2% month-on-month in March.

Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY ITEM Club think-tank, said: “Retail sales volumes fell a record 18.1% month-on-month and 22.6% year-on-year in April as they were hit by the full impact of the lockdown restrictions that were imposed on March 23. This notably included the closure of non-essential retailers.”