The Great Debate UK
-Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School and a co-author of “Verdict on the Crash” published by the Institute of Economic Affairs. The opinions expressed are his own.-
Whether their problem is narcotics or alcohol or simply junk food, addicts are usually planning to give up… but not yet. In the meantime, there are always plenty of excuses for delay.
And so it is for the Bank of England. The inflation rate will soon be double the 2% target, but they still judge it is too soon to raise rates above their current all-time low level. Moreover, yesterday’s announcement makes clear there is no end in sight for the gilt buying spree (the “Asset Purchase Programme”).
The Bank’s masterly inactivity is predicated on the MPC assumption that there is still plenty of slack to be taken up in the real economy. As I said here earlier this week, I am less convinced about the extent of the spare capacity in the UK economy today than they are, and hence I see far greater danger of further inflation than the Bank apparently does.
As we’ve noted extensively, economists often get it wrong. Leaving aside their collective failure to recognise an impending global recession, you might recall a shock interest rate hike from the Bank of England in January 2007.
This was another event that almost every economist polled by Reuters failed to spot, and there are signs that four years on, economists might be setting themselves up for a similar shock.
Whenever he approaches a bend, an F1 driver has to make a fine judgment: brake too soon and he loses vital momentum, too late and he risks losing control altogether, with possibly fatal consequences.
For the past year, the MPC has been getting closer to the bend – the point at which it will have to raise interest rates – so, as each month passes without a touch on the brakes, the balance of risk changes as the danger of losing control of inflation increases.
-Kathleen Brooks is research director at forex.com. The opinions expressed are her own.-
Looking through the minutes of the Bank of England’s policy meetings for the past year, there are a couple of patterns that you see emerge. Firstly, that rates are on hold, and secondly, that the UK’s elevated inflation rate is temporary. Now the European Central Bank has joined the chorus. ECB President Trichet recently sounded confident that prices will moderate, even though consumer prices rose above the ECB’s target rate of 2 per cent in December.
“Those whom the gods would destroy, they first drive mad.” – the words of a wise Roman thinker (or was it a Greek central banker?). At any rate, the gods certainly seem to have no benevolent intentions with regard to this country, judging by the statements coming from the Bank of England, in particular the calls for another round of quantitative easing from one member of the Monetary Policy Committee and the cry of “Spend, spend, spend” from another.
The view emerging from the Bank and the Monetary Policy Committee is that the country is in the grip of a slow-growth recession, facing the threat of Japanese-style deflation and a double-dip recession, and that this grim situation requires near-zero interest rates, supported by QE2 if necessary, in order to restore consumption and lending (including mortgages) to pre-crisis levels.
from The Great Debate:
"For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Matthew 16:26)
Bank of England Governor Mervyn King and his colleagues on the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) might be tempted to ask the same question.
For a central bank that looks certain to bust its 2 percent inflation target for most of the time between now and the London 2012 Olympics, there is still a lot of uncertainty out there.
Bank of England Governor Mervyn King referred to "uncertain" or "uncertainty" about the outlook five times at the May quarterly Inflation Report press conference according to the bank's transcript, and the latest one didn't seem much more confident in tone.
-Jane Foley is research director at Forex.com. The opinions expressed are her own.-
The financial markets have been pre-occupied with all aspects of the EU bank stress tests over the past few weeks.
For the man on the street, however, the debate boils down to just one question: when will credit become cheaper and more readily available?
By Ian Campbell
– The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are their own –
Just in government and David Cameron’s relationships are in question. Eyebrows have been raised about the prime minister’s friendship with an Old Lady, sometimes known as the Bank of England. The affection appears reciprocated by Mervyn King, the Bank’s governor. But to think the Old Lady’s independence is compromised is probably to take things too far. The bank’s current low interest rate policy looks more than just a political favour.