UK service sector growth hindered by ‘pingdemic’ and inflation – as it happened

Last modified: 02: 10 PM GMT+0

Rolling live coverage as UK service sector data was impacted by inflation and ‘pingdemic’ staff shortages, while US jobs figures disappointed

Closing summary - US stock markets have fallen at the open as a result of concerns about slowing economic growth, and fresh fears about the spread of Covid-19, especially the Delta variant.

Following on from the disappointing US ADP jobs data, the Dow Jones Industrial average fell 0.2% or nearly 69 points at the opening bell, to 35,047. Meanwhile the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite were about 0.1% down.

Fresh fears about the spread of the Delta variant are also knocking shares in sectors such as banking and industrials, which are considered sensitive to the wider economy.

It comes as new figures from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that the Delta variant now accounts for more than 93% of Covid-19 cases in the US.

The Delta variant now accounts for an estimated 93% of coronavirus cases in the US. The number is even higher in some parts of the country.

— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) August 4, 2021

In other news from today:

  • UK service sector growth slowed in July as a result of staff shortages due to the “pingdemic”, and also supply chain disruption.
  • European stocks have been climbing again on the back of strong corporate results.
  • Housebuilder Taylor Wimpey was among the highest risers on the FTSE 100 after hiking its profit guidance and reporting that it had built a record number of homes during the first half of 2021.
  • US payroll growth slowed last month.

You can continue to follow our live coverage from around the world:

The WHO has called for a moratorium on Covid vaccine boosters until at least the end of September, to concentrate on getting first jabs to more people globally.

Thanks for following our live coverage today and please join us again tomorrow. JP

Growth in Britain’s dominant service sector has slowed to its weakest since March after businesses were hit last month by a triple whammy of bottlenecks, workers self-isolating and a less generous tax break for homebuyers.

The latest monthly health check on UK services firms – which account for just under 80% of the economy – found costs rising at their fastest pace in at least 25 years in July, and raised concerns that the best of the UK’s economic recovery from the winter lockdown restrictions might be over.

The report from IHS Markit and the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply said firms were struggling with supply chain delays and shortages of workers exacerbated by the “pingdemic”, the instructions to self-isolate that have been running at more than 500,000 a week.

IHS Markit/Cips said the reduction in the threshold at which stamp duty is paid on house purchases from £500,000 to £250,000 in England and Northern Ireland at the end of June was also a factor in slowing growth in activity to a four-month low.

You can read Larry Elliott’s full article on the UK services data here:

The slowdown in US employment growth is also an indicator that staff shortages remain a problem, according to Capital Economics.

Paul Ashworth, chief US economist at Capital Economics, said:

The ADP breakdown does show employment in leisure and hospitality rising by 139,000, but that represents a slowdown on recent months, so it isn’t a sign that low-wage workers are returning to the labour force now that the enhanced unemployment benefits have been withdrawn early in many states. Otherwise, the gains were evenly spread across the remaining service sectors. But construction added only 1,000 jobs, with manufacturing adding 8,000.

Ashworth also flags the importance of Friday’s upcoming payroll report. It’s the last bit of employment data the Fed will have before its Jackson Hole meeting towards the end of this month.

US jobs data disappoints, raising questions about the Federal Reserve's policy direction

The latest US jobs data has disappointed. The ADP national employment showed that showed 330,000 private sector jobs were created in July - less than half the 695,000 which had been forecast.

BREAKING: ADP private employment big miss at 330k vs 695 expected

— Edward Harrison (@edwardnh) August 4, 2021

Analysts are now querying what this means for the Federal Reserve’s policy this year and whether it will taper its monetary stimulus as the US economy recovers from the pandemic.

US 10 year trading at 1.134% now. Will the Fed taper at all in 2021? There's now reason to doubt

— Edward Harrison (@edwardnh) August 4, 2021

The ADP data has also knocked bond yields lower. British 10-year government bond yields fell to their lowest level in almost six months on the news. They hit 0.487%, down 3 basis points today, which the lowest since 12th February.

First Look at July: ADP Says 330K New Nonfarm Private Jobs

— Jill Mislinski (@JillMislinski) August 4, 2021

The creation of far fewer jobs in July than anticipated means analysts will be keeping a close eye on whether this chimes in with Friday’s non-farm payroll jobs report in the US.

However, to sound a note of caution, the ADP data doesn’t necessarily mean that the monthly employment report will be weak.

If the ADP survey is correct, the U.S. employment report on Friday might be a major disappointment. And that could push back the talk about a Fed decision to taper in September. Caveat: ADP is often off the mark. via @markets @readep @economics

— Steve Matthews (@SteveMatthews12) August 4, 2021

Sony is among those companies whose results have beaten expectations, which has been helping to drive global stock markets higher.

In the case of the Japanese entertainment and electronics conglomerate it’s thanks to ongoing demand for the PlayStation 5 games console, which at times is outstripping supply. Consumers have been clamouring for home entertainment throughout the pandemic.

PlayStation 5 seen at Sony’s official store in Hong Kong.
PlayStation 5 seen at Sony’s official store in Hong Kong. Photograph: Chukrut Budrul/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

Sony reported a 26% rise in operating profit in the three months to the end of June to 280.1bn yen (£1.85bn) from 221.7bn yen a year earlier, prompting it to raise its profit forecast for the year to March 2022.

The firm is anticipating that prospects for its music, movies and electronics divisions will continue to improve as the global economy emerges from the pandemic.

However, like many companies from technology firms to automakers, Sony is also feeling the impact of the global shortage of semiconductors.

You can read Jillian Ambrose’s article on Sony’s results here:

And if you’d like to read more on the shortage of semiconductor chips, here are a couple of earlier reports on the problems, and the impact on industry.

Reaction to the UK’s services PMI data from the economic forecasting group EY ITEM Club - it suggests inflation is likely to move higher in the second half of 2021, hitting 3.5% in later 2021, but this will only be temporary.

Given the growth business activity, the group anticipates further strong GDP growth between July and September.

Martin Beck, senior economic advisor to the EY ITEM Club, said:

The pace of activity growth has continued to slow, which is likely to reflect the notion that the biggest gains from reopening are now behind us. The PMI may also have been negatively affected by the rise in COVID-19 infections during July, which required growing numbers of people to self-isolate.

Beck is not too worried about inflation and doesn’t believe the Bank of England needs to be either, ahead of its meeting tomorrow.

While the EY ITEM Club is cautious about these results, given the survey has tended to overstate price pressures in the past, inflation is likely to reach around 3.5% on the CPI measure in late 2021. But the EY ITEM Club remains confident that this rise will prove transitory and expects the majority of the MPC to take a similar view at tomorrow’s meeting.

The services PMI fell to 59.6 in July, down from 62.4 in June but still some way ahead of the long-term average of 54.5. The pace of activity growth has continues to slow. Read comments from the #EYITEM Club on today’s latest survey data

— EY ITEM Club (@EY_ITEMClub) August 4, 2021

European shares driven higher by strong corporate earnings, pan-European Stoxx 600 index hits record highs for third day

The upgrade in profit guidance from Taylor Wimpey has boosted its shares this morning, making the housebuilder the highest riser on London’s FTSE 100.

Taylor Wimpey’s shares are currently up 3.7%.

Insurer Legal & General is also among the biggest risers on the FTSE 100, climbing 2.6%.

European stock markets are almost all in positive territory this morning, with the exception of Spain’s Ibex which is looking flat.

Global stock markets have been boosted by a string of strong corporate earnings, while the vaccination rollout in most developed economies is also calming some nerves over the pandemic. However, some concerns persist over the re-emergence of Covid-19 cases and the spread of the Delta variant in Asian countries including China.

  • UK’s FTSE 100 is currently up 0.4% or 29 points at 7,135.
  • Germany’s DAX has risen 0.8% to 15,683.
  • France’s CAC and Italy’s MIB are both about 0.5% up.
  • The pan-European Stoxx 600 is 0.6% higher - notching up a third day of record highs.


Taylor Wimpey, one of the UK’s biggest housebuilders, has returned to profit and upgraded its earnings targets after building a record number of homes in the first six months of the year.

The High Wycombe-based firm built more than 7,300 homes in the first half of 2021, almost all of which have been pre-sold, allowing the company to lock in the benefit of soaring house prices triggered by cheap loans, the government’s stamp duty holiday and a pandemic-driven preference for larger houses.

The FTSE 100 housebuilder reported a pre-tax profit of £287.5m for the six months to early July after a £40m loss in the same period last year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pete Redfern, Taylor Wimpey’s chief executive, said the company expects to complete between 13,200 and 14,000 houses in 2021, and reach an operating profit for the year of about £820m.

Read the full story here:

Euro zone retail sales growth slowed slightly in June

In other euro zone news - retail sales in the bloc continued to rise in June, but less quickly than in May after shops reopened following the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

Shoppers in Cologne city centre in July
Shoppers in Cologne city centre in July Photograph: Ying Tang/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

Retail sales in the 19 countries which share the euro rose by 1.5% month-on-month in June, according to official data from Eurostat, the EU’s stats office. This was 5% higher than a year earlier.

Euro area #RetailTrade +1.5% in June 2021 over May, +5.0% over June 2020

— EU_Eurostat (@EU_Eurostat) August 4, 2021

Retail sales didn’t rise across the board in the euro zone.

The timing of shop reopening also appears to have played a role. Retail sales rose most steeply in Ireland, Germany and Latvia, but were lower in countries including Portugal, Austria and Malta.


Staffing shortages and supply chain disruptions also impacted firms in the euro zone last month, although business activity in the bloc grew at its fastest pace in 15 years.

The IHS Markit final composite PMI for the 19 countries which share the euro rose to 60.2 in July, up from 59.5 in June and the highest level since June 2006.

The reading for the euro zone’s service sector also hit its highest final reading since June 2006, after many service businesses across the region reopened.

The Eurozone economy grew at the quickest rate since June 2006, as the #PMI rose to 60.2 in July to surpass June's 15-year high of 59.5. Inflationary trends meanwhile began to stabilise but were still at a marked pace. Read more:

— IHS Markit PMI™ (@IHSMarkitPMI) August 4, 2021

IHS Markit said:

Among the four largest eurozone economies, the quickest rise was in Germany, where again the rate of expansion accelerated to a record high. In Italy, private sector activity growth jumped to a three-and-a-half year high, while Spain and France registered softer increases in output.

UK service sector growth hampered by "pingdemic" and inflation

Incoming data from the UK - the July services Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) has come in above forecast, but still marks a slowdown in the recovery.

The seasonally-adjusted IHS Markit/ CIPS UK Services PMI came in at 59.6 for July. higher than anticipated, but a drop from 62.4 in June. A reading over 50 shows growth rather than contraction.

This marks an increase in activity for the fifth month running for UK service businesses, however it’s also the weakest rate of growth seen since March and the end of the winter lockdown.

What’s holding things back? Shortages of both staff and supplies.

Businesses grappled with staff absences as a result of the “pingdemic”, when workers were told to self-isolate after contracting or coming into contact with someone with Covid-19.

Services firms have also been struggling to recruit enough staff, sometimes after workers left unexpectedly, while they also had difficulty finding people with the right skills for the job.

Adding to firms’ problems - inflationary pressures. The survey showed the strongest growth of input costs in 25 years.

Many firms responding to the survey said they’d seen strong consumer spending, and also a recovery in demand for business services, but self-isolation rules had knocked sales.

IHS Markit said:

Staff shortages and supply issues were a severe constraint on business capacity, which led to another strong rise in backlogs of work. Tight labour market conditions led to greater wage pressures across the service economy and this contributed to the fastest increase in overall input costs since the survey began in July 1996.

UK growth slows sharply during July 'pingdemic' (but by a fair bit less than initial PMI data suggested, as the July 19 reopening boosted some businesses' spirits).
Record (25 year+) inflation pressures too.

— David Milliken (@david_milliken) August 4, 2021

We’ve been writing about the problems of staff shortages for hospitality businesses for some time, such as this article from Sarah Butler last month:

The British e-commerce specialist The Hut Group (THG) has snapped up online beauty retailer Cult Beauty for £275m.

The Manchester-based online firm, which listed last year, already sells directly to consumers through websites such as Lookfantastic, Glossybox and Zavvi, as well as sports nutrition company Myprotein, and racked up £1.1bn of revenues in 2019.

Some of The Hut Group’s products
Some of The Hut Group’s products Photograph: The Hut Group/PA

THG said Cult Beauty would add around £140m of net sales to it business in 2022.

Cult Beauty calls itself “the insider’s guide to the best beauty products” and was co-founded by former model and PR Alexia Inge in 2008.

THG is only slightly older, having been founded by Matthew Moulding in 2004. THG listed on the London stock market in September last year, in a flotation which valued it at £4.5bn.

THG has also raised it sales growth guidance for 2021 t0 38% - 41%, compared with previous guidance of 30% - 35%.

This is the view of equity analysts at broker Jefferies of THG’s latest acquisition:

Cult is an authorised retailer for c.300 prestige third-party brands, two-thirds of which are not currently listed on existing The Hut Group beauty sites. The deal will also enable THG to expand Cult’s overseas presence, given <50% international sales. Demographically Cult Beauty is at the younger end of the market, with a clearer bias to indie brands.

If you want to know more about The Hut Group, see some of the Guardian’s previous coverage of the growing e-commerce company, including the recent deal it struck with Japanese investment bank SoftBank:

A Ryanair Boeing 737 aircraft approaches Paris-Beauvais airport in Tille.
A Ryanair Boeing 737 aircraft approaches Paris-Beauvais airport in Tille. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/Reuters

More passengers took to the skies with Ryanair in July.

The number of passengers carried by the Irish airline doubled from 4.4m people in June to 9.3m in July.

The Irish carrier said it flew over 61,000 flights last month, which were 80% full.

Just a few days ago, the airline said it had seen a surge in bookings in recent weeks, thanks to the rollout of EU digital Covid certificates last month, as well as the scrapping of quarantine for fully-vaccinated people arriving in the UK from the EU.

Ryanair’s shares are also flying slightly higher in early trading, and are nearly 1% up.

Concerns about the Delta variant don’t appear to be weighing on Asian stock markets today, which have been moving towards one-week highs.

After a hesitant start to trading in Asia, stocks had bounced back by mid-morning.

MSCI’s index of Asia-Pacific shares outside of Japan remains in positive territory, although it has slipped a bit from earlier gains of over 1%.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng is nearly 1% higher, although Japan’s Nikkei remains in the red.

Introduction: China service sector accelerates, but Delta worries remain

Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.

Data overnight from China showed that the country’s services sector accelerated in July, hitting its highest level since May, although the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant in the country is threatening the recovery.

The Caixin /Markit services Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) climbed to 54.9 in July, up from 50.3 the previous month. Any reading over 50 represents monthly growth rather than contraction.

The survey, which tends to focus on smaller firms in China’s coastal regions, contrasted with official data which had showed a slight slow-down in Chinese services data in July.

#China's service sector activity rebounded in July with the #PMI at 54.9, up from the 14-month low previously (Jun: 50.3). Operating expenses meanwhile increased at a faster pace. Read more:

— IHS Markit PMI™ (@IHSMarkitPMI) August 4, 2021

Important! The Caixin #China's Services #PMI for July came in much higher than expected, rising to 54.9 from 50.3.

— jeroen blokland (@jsblokland) August 4, 2021

The services sector in the world’s second-largest economy hasn’t rebounded from the pandemic as quickly as its manufacturing sector, but domestic consumption has been picking up, which has helped.

However a recent rise in coronavirus infections and the spread of the Delta variant remain a dark cloud on the horizon.

This is the view of Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK:

Concerns that rising infection rates across Asia, and in China especially, appear to be causing anxiety that the rebound story in that part of the world is about to become the weakest link in the global recovery story. Not only are we hearing about more cases in China, but we are also getting an acceleration of cases across Indonesia and Thailand, as the virus hunts out the parts of the global economy with low vaccination rates.

Services PMIs in focus as Europe gets set for a higher open @CMCMarkets

— Michael Hewson 🇬🇧 (@mhewson_CMC) August 4, 2021

The spread of the Delta variant in several Chinese cities is already knocking the domestic tourist industry, as local authorities are asking people not to travel to reduce infections.

Will China set the pace for the rest of the world? We’ve got a day of services PMI data coming up - kicking off with the euro zone and the UK later this morning, and followed by the US.

Analysts seem to have fewer concerns about European economies for the time being, thanks to higher vaccination rates across the region.

In Europe - stock markets look set to open positively, after the region-wide Stoxx 600 and London’s FTSE 250 hit record highs yesterday.

Despite less than convincing US economic data (PMI on Monday & Factory orders Tues), Wall Street puts its best foot forward following in the wake of Asia and Europe y'day. Opening calls suggest circumspection - FTSE +16 @ 7121, DAX +35 @ 15590, CAC +15 @ 6737, DJIA -30 @ 35086

— David Buik (@truemagic68) August 4, 2021

The agenda

  • 9am BST: Eurozone services PMI for July
  • 9.30am BST: UK services PMI for July
  • 12 Noon BST: US weekly mortgage approvals
  • 1.15pm BST: ADP survey of US company payrolls
  • 3pm BST: US services PMI for July



Joanna Partridge

The GuardianTramp

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