Britain's economy is set to slow down next year according to the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). Consumer spending looks set to weaken and economic uncertainty will likely drive businesses to put the brakes on investment.
In the organisation's first calculations since the Brexit referendum, the BCC reduced its forecasts for the current year and for the following two years arguing that uncertainty around the UK's long-term political arrangements with the EU and the timescale of the Brexit process will "dampen growth prospects towards the end of 2016 and over 2017."
On a brighter note, the BCC reckons the UK will avoid a recession even though the economy will flirt with decline. GDP growth forecasts are down from 2.2% to 1.8% for 2016, from 2.3% to 1% in 2017, and from 2.4% to 1.8% in 2018. However, ongoing weakness in sterling against other currencies should help bolster Britain's net trade position.
The downgrades to the BCC's forecast suggest the UK economy will fall short of the organisation's previous forecasts by £43.8bn by the end of the forecast period. Adam Marshall, acting director general of the BCC said: "Although individual businesses continue to report strong trading conditions, the overall picture suggests a sharp slowdown in UK growth lies ahead."
Should I worry?
Considering the magnitude of the political and economic tremors rippling over Britain's economy as it begins the process of disentangling itself from the European Union, the BCC's forecasts don't look too bad to me. GDP growth of just 1% in 2017 is still growth, which suggests a benign economic environment for firms to operate in.
However, macroeconomic forecasting isn't a source of too much worry and concern for me in any case. The important news I'm following is that coming from the firms I hold or want to buy as investments. As long as the business economics behind firms I'm watching don't deteriorate and their finances remain strong, there's every reason to hold on tight to shares as the underlying businesses trade their way through any forthcoming economic soft patch.
An opportunity to buy?
It's possible that sentiment could work to put pressure on share prices, but any setback could throw up opportunities to buy more shares of great companies at better prices rather than selling in a panic. That's what the great and famous investors such as Warren Buffett have always done, of course. A little bit of economic doom and gloom in the headlines sparking off volatile share prices is just what the long-term business-minded investor needs. Such conditions make it possible to build a portfolio of shares of great businesses with compelling economics bought at attractive prices.
I'm not going to sell my shares because of the BCC's revised forecasts but I am switching to red alert in the hope of picking up some investment bargains over the next couple of years.
What to do next
The Brexit process could end up boosting your portfolio in the years to come as long as you hold you nerve now. However, it's understandable that investors should feel uneasy with all the uncertainties in the air.
That's why the Motley Fool analysts have produced a free report called Brexit: Your 5-Step Investor's Survival Guide. It's a useful guide that could work well in your investor's toolkit in the years to come. It's free and you can get it right now. Click here.