Bank of england

Two reasons why Andy Haldane is right to worry about inflation

Companies are facing critical shortages of staff. Commodity prices keep spiking upwards. Central banks are printing money on an unprecedented scale, and governments are running deficits of a size that haven’t been seen in peacetime before. What could possibly go wrong?  Well, quite a bit, as it happens. And the departing chief economist of the Bank of England Andy Haldane is completely right to warn that the real risk we face over the next couple of years is not a prolonged slump, but a re-run of the spiralling prices of the 1970s.  To his credit, Haldane was seldom afraid of challenging orthodox views during his time at the Bank. Now

Dominic Cummings’s explosive claim about the Bank of England

Amidst all the explosive claims made by Dominic Cummings during today’s select committee hearing, one towards the beginning of the seven-hour session seemed rather unintentional. When asked by Rebecca Long-Bailey MP about what economic assessments were made when considering the first lockdown, Cummings responded that there was no straight-forward ‘document floating around’ which laid out the ‘economic costs’. He then alleged that conversations were taking place about removing the Bank of England’s independence: ‘It was the case that the Bank of England, the senior officials in the Treasury, senior officials in the Cabinet Office were saying, you know, we have to think about the consequence of, if we do this

Will Britain’s economic recovery break records?

It’s been a good week for seeing the vaccine factor at work. We’ve had multiple real-world updates on the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness against new variants of Covid-19 (this bodes well for the UK, which was the first country in the world to use the vaccine to protect its most vulnerable residents). And today we’ve had a revised economic forecast from the Bank of England, suggesting the UK’s impressive vaccine rollout could translate into the strongest growth since records began in 1949. The Bank of England now predicts that the economy will expand by more than 7 per cent in 2021, up from its forecast of 5 per cent in February. Its

Andrew Bailey’s note of Covid caution

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Andrew Bailey threw his support behind one of the more optimistic scenarios for a post-Covid economic recovery: that the UK will be back to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year. The combination of the UK’s hugely successful vaccine rollout combined with increased levels of lockdown immunity – that is, the economic impact of restrictions ‘reducing as we all adapt’ – had the Governor of the Bank of England suggesting that we could see a full recovery by the end of the year (notably earlier than the Office for Budget Responsibility’s Budget forecast of roughly the middle of next year). Bailey

Why it’s a good time to invest in a pub

It’s obvious from the body language of Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey that negative interest rates — much talked about this week — are the last device he ever wants to use. Deployed with mixed success in Europe, this monetary equivalent of Pulp Fiction’s adrenaline jab in the heart is a desperate remedy against deflation, recession and banks’ reluctance to lend. UK banks have been given six months to prepare for the possibility, while Bailey has been talking up the likelihood of rapid recovery as vaccinations advance and Brexit trade disruptions fade. So by the time the banking system is ready, the negative-rate tool should be back in the

Sunak’s furlough extension paves the way for more lockdowns

England has only been back in national lockdown for a matter of hours and already economic support packages are rolling in — not for the duration of this lockdown (furlough was already confirmed until 2 December) but for the months to follow after the country exits lockdown. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has abandoned a return to the jobs support scheme when lockdown ends — which sees the majority of financial costs fall on the employer — and instead decided to extend the furlough scheme across the UK in its most generous form. Furlough will run until March 2021 at least, with the government paying 80 per cent of workers’ wages for

Can Britain get its record-high debt under control?

Last month, Britain joined the club of countries whose national debt is greater than 100 per cent of economic output. According to an Office for National Statistics update, public debt exceeded £2 trillion, taking the debt to GDP ratio over 100 per cent for the first time in 60 years. A fast economic recovery will prove vital for getting the Britain’s deficit under control Crossing this mark doesn’t come as much of a surprise given the copious amounts of spending the UK has done on Covid-related policy. July saw the fourth highest borrowing of any month on record – the top three coming in the previous three months when the

Are the Bank of England’s forecasts too optimistic?

The Bank of England offers a mixed bag of forecasts today. It now expects Britain’s economic downturn to be less extreme than feared, while also predicting a recovery will take longer than originally thought. The Bank now expects the economy to contract 9.5 per cent in 2020, substantially less than the 14 per cent drop it predicted at the height of the national lockdown. But it joined the Office for National Statistics in revising its optimism for a sharp V-shaped recovery downward, expecting nine per cent growth in 2021, with GDP not returning to pre-Covid-19 levels for another eighteen months. The Bank’s forecast remains one of the most optimistic, still

Should the UK create a post-Covid Sovereign Wealth Fund?

Soon, the short-term credit being lent abundantly to Britain’s small and medium firms to stave off bankruptcy during the shutdown will be due to be repaid. The prospect of this forcing many businesses to shed jobs by the thousands is rightly ringing alarm bells. The can could be kicked down the road for a few months by postponing repayment. But the people who kicked the can would still have to confront the problem. They would find that firms saddled with accumulated short-term debt, and revenues that remain reduced, will want to shed workers. The latest proposed solution, initially proposed in the Financial Times, is that these short-term liabilities should be

The coronavirus crash could be even worse than we feared

Just how bad will the Covid economic hit be? Today’s figures for the first quarter of 2020 show Britain’s economy shrunk by two per cent, but that takes into account just a few days of lockdown (and suggests that the recession started some time before). The March figure is more like it: despite only formally being in lockdown for eight days in March, the UK economy contracted 5.8 per cent that month alone. As Capital Economics puts it ‘in just one month the economy has tumbled by as much as it did in the year and a half after the global financial crisis.’ Yet some responses to today’s figures reveal a worrying degree of

Can we rely on a V-shaped recovery?

Can the UK expect a V-shape recovery? The Bank of England has this morning published data revealing very deep V, suggesting a complete economic recovery in a matter of months: a 25 per cent plunge in growth in Q2, followed by a 14 per cent and 11 per cent boom in Q3 and Q4. That would be the sharpest collapse in 200 years followed by the sharpest recovery in 300 years: more of a bungee jump than a V. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s an ‘illustrative scenario’ rather than a forecast. It’s not just lockdown: living with the virus takes a big economic toll The

The Bank of England’s coronavirus gamble

It’s very interesting, and important, that the Bank of England is encouraging banks to turn half a blind eye to likely coronavirus losses on loans to businesses and mortgage borrowers – in the hope that banks don’t suddenly stop lending for fear future losses will deplete their capital. After the 2008 banking crisis, this is something I never thought I would see, but it’s probably an appropriate measure. Given the sheer number of businesses and mortgage-borrowers in trouble, the damage to the economy would be made much worse if banks stopped or cut lending for prudential reasons. What matters is that the Bank had better be right that the economy and businesses will

Andrew Bailey’s stark warning about the coronavirus ’emergency’

The new Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey has warned that the UK is facing an ‘economy emergency’ and the worst is yet to come. Speaking to Sky News, Bailey said the UK economy needs to brace itself for a ‘very big downturn’. ‘Everything’s on the table that is reasonable,’ he said, referring to the policy tool kit at the BoE’s disposal to help manage any economic crisis in the coming weeks and months. The governor’s warning comes a day after Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s unprecedented £350bn coronavirus stimulus and hours after the pound plummeted below $1.20 – its lowest level against the US dollar since 1985. Investors are abandoning the pound and flocking to the

Bank of England’s irrelevant coronavirus vaccine

There may be no vaccine yet for Covid-19, but the Bank of England yesterday morning gave us a full dose of what it hopes will be the financial equivalent; slashing interest rates from 0.75 per cent to 0.25 per cent. It has also relaxed the capital buffer requirements for banks — the amount of capital banks are required to hold back to defend against a financial crisis like that of 2008/09. This ought to allow banks to advance more loans to business. Some have been wondering whether the bank is attempting the equivalent of fighting a viral infection with antibiotics. Lowering interest rates in normal circumstances might help boost demand

The corona stimulus shows we’ve learned the lessons of the crash

The Bank of England hasn’t wasted time getting in front of the coronavirus, and its actions this morning show how far things have moved from the days of Mervyn King. Perhaps more interesting than the interest rate cut is the Bank’s moves to quickly free up the best part of £200bn of lending capacity for UK businesses, particularly small firms who are entirely reliant on banks for funding. The idea is to create a firebreak, to make sure economic malaise doesn’t lead to businesses failing through lack of working cash flow. Fewer restaurants and hotel customers, a fall in those travelling, and more people working from home will all put pressure on

Gina Miller should leave the Bank of England’s new boss alone

She’s back. With Brexit ‘done’ and with most of the country just grateful to have moved on from the whole saga, we might have thought we had heard the last of Gina Miller. Miller, who became something of a figurehead in the anti-Brexit movement, could quietly return to doing whatever it was she used to get up to. Not so. Now she is back on the attack, demanding a ‘review’ of the appointment of Andrew Bailey as Governor of the Bank of England. What’s her complaint this time? Apparently as head of the Financial Conduct Authority, Bailey presided over “a toxic cocktail of negligence, incompetence and indifference to the needs

Mark Carney is finally realising the benefits of Brexit

Given what he has previously said about Brexit it would be a bit much to expect departing Bank of England governor Mark Carney to say that leaving the EU is a good thing for Britain. Nevertheless, it is still a bit of pleasant surprise to hear him in what – in Carney-speak – is presumably the next best thing. In an interview with Reuters, he has just described Brexit as a ‘conceptual positive’ for the UK economy. If you are not quite sure what one of those is, he did go on to spell it out in a little more normal language: It is a major reordering of our relationship

What to expect from the new Governor of the Bank of England

Andrew Bailey, announced this morning as the next Governor of the Bank of England, is not, to use a term quoted this morning, a ‘rock star’ banker. He has been sold to the nation as a boring, dependable sort who will steady the horses, the safety-first candidate. It no doubt helps in this impression that he is, in fact, a banker – unlike the labour lawyer now running the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde. But that rather misses out a bigger question about Andrew Bailey: what is his attitude towards the regulation of banks and the wider financial sector in general? This matters somewhat as, under his watch, Britain will

Helena Morrissey: my manifesto for the next govenor of the Bank of England

The start of term at Oxford University is bittersweet for the close-knit Morrisseys; we have just ‘lost’ three offspring to their undergraduate studies. Dropping them off at their colleges (Wadham, Christ Church and Keble, with another Morrissey at All Souls), my husband Richard and I felt a little wistful as well as proud. Every year we observe the striking diversity of the students in every sense bar one: they all seem very clever. Oxford is getting something right — broadening accessibility by contextualising offers, while unashamedly sticking to high standards. This is helping it maintain its crown as Britain’s highest-ranked university, one of four in the global top ten (the

Why Downing Street still hasn’t named a new Bank governor

Private secretary: ‘The Bank of England governorship, Prime Minister… opposition MPs have been saying it’s a political stitch-up and calling for the shortlist to be made public. Have you had time to look at the file?’ Boris, distracted: ‘Stitch-up piffle! I thought we’d picked my economist chum Gerard Lyons — very sound on Brexit.’ ‘Treasury wouldn’t have him, Prime Minister. They’re trying to fix it for one of their own, Sir John Kingman, former second permanent secretary, now chairman of Legal& General.’ ‘And weren’t we going to pad the list with women and, ah, minorities? Like Baroness Wossername?’ ‘You mean Labour peer Shriti Vadera, chair of Santander UK, Prime Minister?