Hampshire business leaders were given an upbeat assessment of the UK’s economic prospects at a seminar addressed by a global investment expert.  

Economist Janet Mui, head of market analysis at wealth manager RBC Brewin Dolphin, was the guest speaker at a breakfast briefing held at the University of Southampton Science Park.

The award-winning industry commentator told attendees: “From what I see in the financial markets there are reasons to be optimistic.

"The fact that inflation appears to have peaked removes huge uncertainty. It has been coming down in tandem in the US, UK and Eurozone.

“The question is whether or not this will be a sustainable trend in the UK, which has seen the highest inflation rate of all advanced western countries. Inflation is the main issue that suppresses growth.   

“It is now expected to get closer to the Bank of England target of two per cent, even though the journey could be bumpy.

“In turn, financial markets expect two or three interest rate cuts in the UK in the second half of this year."

Ms Mui added: "Even though we are in a technical recession, it may already be over. The Office for National Statistics has a history of upward revision of past data. It’s certainly not a deep, prolonged recession.

“Although confidence can fluctuate, people are relieved inflation is down. It seems we’re heading in the right direction with consumer confidence less negative than it has been."

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has confirmed that a general election is likely to be held later this year.

But Ms Mui warned there was "limited headroom" for either the Tories or Labour to pursue any bold plans for the economy.

“UK public debt is at 96.5% of GDP and under current government plans, tax revenue is forecast to rise to 37.7% of GDP by 2027-28, the highest level of tax ever seen in the UK," she said.

“I strongly advise anyone in a business to keep a close eye on what’s happening with inflation and interest rates and take advice ahead of investment decisions."

The briefing was hosted by Chandler's Ford-based HWB Chartered Accountants.

HWB director Michaela Johns said: "Janet gave us some fascinating insight into the key macro-economic trends and prospects we can expect for the rest of 2024."