Interest rates

The Bank of England has no good options

How will and how should the Bank of England, and the Treasury, react to this morning’s continued fall in the value of the pound? I’ve been talking to former Bank of England executives and ex-Treasury officials, who make clear that the stakes are incredibly high and that reassuring markets will not be easy. This further devaluation in the currency is a serious problem for Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng after his maxi ‘mini-Budget’ on Friday because it means the price of imports will continue to rise, stoking already-high inflation. And it raises the spectre that the government will struggle to borrow what it needs at acceptable interest rates, because of the falling

Lionel Shriver

The world is stuck in a debt trap

I don’t usually get up early just for an appointment at a bank. Yet last Tuesday in New York, I lost sleep in order to slam a trove of savings into a certificate of deposit. Surely I could have delayed the quotidian chore for any old day. What was the hurry? I wanted to ensure that the cash would earn a Great Big Two Per Cent. As expected, the next day the Federal Reserve, America’s central bank, made its second 0.25 per cent interest rate cut in three months. More cuts are to come — though starting from a miserable 1.75 per cent, it won’t take much whittling before we’re

Why the interest rate rise might frustrate Liz Truss

Rising interest rates is a key pillar of Trussonomics. Liz Truss herself has always stopped short of saying this explicitly, pointing fingers instead at the Bank of England for its failure to curb spiralling inflation. But the economists advising her have made clear, in no uncertain terms, that they think interest rates have been too low for too long.  Right from the start of her leadership campaign, Truss was far more vocal about her criticisms of the Bank; a point made even clearer once she entered No. 10 and her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng set up bi-weekly meetings with the Bank’s governor Andrew Bailey. With this new pressure being applied on the

How high might interest rates go?

To nobody’s surprise, the Bank of England has hiked its base rate, and, equally unsurprisingly, it has chosen to do so by a relatively modest 0.25 per cent, bringing rates to 1.25 per cent. In 25 years of its existence, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has never raised rates by more than 0.25 per cent at a time. That stands in contrast to the Fed’s decision to raise rates by 0.75 per cent on Wednesday. If the modesty of the rise was supposed to calm markets, however, it doesn’t seem to have worked. The FTSE100, already down nearly 2 per cent on the day, plunged further on the announcement. The

Will Rishi Sunak stick to his ‘golden rule’?

Here’s the Rishi Sunak paradox: he proudly defines himself as a low-tax Tory but under his watch taxes are reaching a 71-year high. There are plenty of Tories who want to ditch next month’s National Insurance increase but Sunak is firmly opposed – mainly because he wants to link up in people’s minds that more money for the NHS and social care doesn’t manifest out of thin air. But pressure is on at tomorrow’s spring statement to make clear what kind of Chancellor he really is. Does he come from the long line of Tories who like tax cuts in theory but not in practice – or does he have

Don’t bet on interest rates rising

So is this really it: the end of the era of virtually zero interest rates? There was a marked pullback in US markets on Wednesday when Jay Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, indicated that yes, he really did mean it: interest rates are on the way up, if not quite yet. ‘The committee is of a mind to raise the federal funds rate at the March meeting assuming that conditions are appropriate for doing so.’ Share prices, which earlier in the day had risen in expectation of a doveish stance, fell back sharply. The very idea that a central bank might increase interest rates to tackle rising inflation

The Bank of England is right to hike interest rates

The Omicron variant of Covid-19 is rampant. Bars and restaurants are in crisis as thousands of bookings are cancelled. And travel restrictions are back in place, with a full lockdown looming. To make matters worse, so far there is little sign of the Chancellor Rishi Sunak stepping in with any support.  Most businesses probably imagined that the very last thing they would have to cope with right now was a rise in interest rates. As a result, there will be plenty of business owners complaining that the Bank of England’s decision to up rates to 0.25 per cent will be the final blow that will push the economy back into recession. But hold on.

Will someone wake up the Bank of England?

It is called managing expectations: the steady drip of forecasts and scenarios designed to prepare us for bad news, so that when that news does finally arrive it doesn’t seem nearly as bad as it would otherwise have done. So is that what the Bank of England is up to with its deputy governor, Ben Broadbent, telling us that inflation next April could ‘comfortably exceed’ 5 per cent? It is reminiscent of the moment in July when the Bank’s departing chief economist, Andy Haldane, dropped in the suggestion that inflation by the end of 2021 could be closer to four percent than three percent. The MPC is behaving like a Chancellor

The Bank of England’s inflation rate stunt

He isn’t Canadian. He doesn’t dominate the Davos circuit with platitudes about climate change. And he isn’t constantly warning that the British economy will turn into a cross between Ethiopia and Argentina now that we have left the European Union. In many ways, the current Governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey is an upgrade on his high-profile predecessor Mark Carney. And yet, in the most important respect, he is turning out to be very similar. He is constantly threatening to raise interest rates, and then backing off at the last moment.  An increase in interest rate from the ‘emergency’ level of just 0.1 per cent was not quite

The Bank of England’s new monetary hawk

Andy Haldane’s departure from the Bank of England opened up one of the most influential roles in guiding UK monetary policy — and that role has now been filled. Huw Pill has been announced as the BoE’s new chief economist, taking up the post from next Monday. Some of the snap reaction is focusing on Pill’s similarities to those who came before him. Despite resources being poured into diversity teams to recruit a mix of applicants, it was Pill who was selected, a former Goldman Sachs economist and most recently a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School. Pill won’t take kindly to ideas about reneging the Bank of England’s independence

Has the Bank of England just blown its chance to stop inflation?

The economy is growing at a blistering pace, and likely to recover all its Covid losses by the autumn. Labour shortages are emerging across a range of industries, as the supply of Eastern European workers dries up. Prices are starting to edge upwards, house prices are soaring, and commodities are getting more expensive. But, hey, it is probably a good moment to keep the printing presses rolling and pump plenty of freshly minted pounds into the economy. The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) decided not just to keep base rates at 0.1 per cent today – that was largely expected – but also to maintain its programme of

The thinking behind Rishi Sunak’s cash grab

Rishi Sunak’s tax hikes pack a punch: by 2025, over £19bn is estimated to be raised from the freeze to the personal tax threshold, and a staggering £50bn from a new, tiered corporation tax structure. That’s a lot of people out of pocket, and businesses diverting their profits away from workers and consumers and towards the state. Criticisms of the cash grab are splashed across the front pages of the papers today. Across the pond, the Wall Street Journal has lambasted Sunak’s policies: ‘Britain’s political class, and especially the governing Conservative party, prides itself on fiscal rectitude. So Mr. Sunak already faces pressure to “pay for” all this relief. We

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

Crunch time

For anyone considering a career in economic forecasting, the Bank of England’s inflation report for August 2007 ought to be required reading. A graph illustrating its Monetary Policy Committee’s ‘best collective judgment’ of annual economic growth two years ahead is fixed around a central prediction of 2.5 per cent, with extreme boundaries of 0.8 per cent and 4.2 per cent. But after two years, economic growth was running at –5.6 per cent, and the economy had just completed its fifth consecutive quarter of negative growth. The finest minds of Threadneedle Street could not see two years ahead. In this case, the Bank of England could not even see a few

On balance, I’d vote for a rate rise and a stronger pound

Since Article 50 was triggered last week, City traders have been avidly watching the fluctuations of the pound. Analysts at Barclays, Nomura and Citigroup think sterling is undervalued against the euro and the dollar, and due for a rebound, having dived in the market tizzy that followed last June’s referendum and kept its head down through the phoney war of the past nine months. As ambiguity over Brexit terms begins to recede, says the City, it’s time for the pound to perk up. Well, maybe — as I’m often moved to observe in relation to bald economic statements. Let’s take a closer look. The sudden fall last summer boosted UK

Carney must go

Oh dear. Mark Carney is irritated. His proud independence has been challenged. The Prime Minister had the temerity to admit that she was not altogether thrilled with his ‘super-low’ interest rates and quantitative easing. These policies meant that people with assets got richer, she pointed out. ‘People without them suffered… People with savings have found themselves poorer.’ Mr Carney found this intolerable and haughtily rebuffed her, saying, ‘The policies are done by technocrats. We are not going to take instruction on our policies from the political side.’ Back in your box, Mrs May. Carney’s in charge! As they clash, it is increasingly hard to remember what a bright day it

The Bank of Wonderland

What should we think about negative interest rates? What kind of Alice in Wonderland world are we living in when companies and households are paid to borrow and charged if they save? Seemingly crazy, negative interest rates are spreading nonetheless. Implemented by central banks in Europe, Japan and elsewhere, they now apply in countries accounting for a quarter of the global economy. Should we be worried? Could we see negative rates in Britain? Earlier this month, the Bank of England cut interest rates for the first time in seven years, from 0.5 per cent to a new record low of 0.25 per cent. Quantitative easing was also restarted, with the

Let’s refocus the Panama story on the bad stuff that really matters

There were moments last week when I was ready to give up journalism and retrain in a less unsavoury profession — chiropody, perhaps. It might have been Jon Snow’s bushwhacking of arts minister Ed Vaizey on the subject of the prime minister’s tax affairs, or Snow’s colleague Cathy Newman shrieking questions about offshore companies at Boris Johnson as she chased him in the street. Or one of dozens of reports and articles oozing malice, self–righteousness, hypocrisy and wilful ignorance of the distinction between tax planning as practised by anyone with a sense of obligation to provide for their family and the dirty business of hiding ill-gotten gains. This being open

Portrait of the week | 26 November 2015

Home David Cameron, the Prime Minister, announced, as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review, plans for two 5,000-strong ‘strike brigades’ that could respond to terrorist attacks on Britain. Spending on defence would go up by £12 billion, keeping it above 2 per cent of GDP. The estimate for replacing Britain’s four Trident ballistic missile submarines rose from £25 billion to £31 billion. The Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft, scrapped in 2010, would be replaced with nine Boeing P-8s. Aircraft for the Navy’s two new aircraft carriers would be ready by 2023. The government made preparations for a vote in the Commons in favour of Britain bombing Islamic State targets in Syria.