House prices rose by 1.3% in August, their biggest monthly increase since January 2010, according to the Nationwide building society. It followed two successive monthly falls, however, and the best way of looking at the data is that in nominal terms house prices are flat, which is roughly where they've been for the past three years.
Compared with a year ago, prices were down by 0.7%, compared with a 2.6% annual fall in July. More here. The John Lewis Partnership reported an 8.8% year-on-year rise in sales in the week to August 24, which most retailers would give their eye teeth for but is not as strong as its recent performance. The increase for the latest four weeks was 14.9%.
How to square these with the downgrading of the CBI and British Chambers of Commerce forecasts, to -0.3% and -0.4% respectively? Mainly this is a question of arithmetic. Even after the revision of the second quarter GDP figures it would have taken a big rebound in the second half to neutralise the effect of three quarterly declines in GDP. As it is, these forecasts assume growth in the third and fourth quarters.
Perhaps of more concern is that both business organisations predict growth of only a little over 1% in 2013. Their members won't want to invest much on that prospect.