The Great Debate UK

Election may be fought on peak between dips


campbellBy Ian Campbell

LONDON, April 13 (Reuters Breakingviews) – Gordon Brown says his Labour party will “secure the recovery” if it wins the UK election in May. The opposition Conservatives would kill the upturn, he says. Brown is right in one sense: the “recovery” can easily be broken. But only because it is so fragile in the first place.

The UK’s data looks more encouraging than it actually is. The UK needs exports and production to surge ahead. Trade figures released on April 13 might appear to herald that: February’s trade deficit was its smallest since June 2006.

But comparing the past three months with the three preceding months, the UK’s export volumes are up by a timid 1.5 percent, while imports rose by 3.8 percent. The UK needs an export charge. It simply hasn’t got one yet — in spite of the much weaker pound.

What the UK has had is a sustained charge in fiscal spending. The UK’s old stalwart, house prices, joined the advance last year. But here, the signs are turning down again. House prices in England and Wales rose at their slowest rate in March since last July, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Greenspan and the curse of counterfactual


Laurence_Copeland-150x150- 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. -

Suppose that, instead of appeasing Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler at Munich in 1938, Neville Chamberlain had taken Britain to war, what would today’s history books say about the episode?

from Breakingviews:

Bank of England turns more radical on bank terror

Central bankers' speeches tend to be dry affairs. For this reason alone, Andrew Haldane's latest thoughts on the financial crisis deserve attention. In a discussion about size in banking, the Bank of England's executive director in charge of financial stability makes reference to the structure of al Qaeda, the limits of Facebook friendship, and the world domino-toppling record. Rhetorical flourishes aside, Haldane's comments contain a serious message: regulators are thinking increasingly radical thoughts about tackling big banks.

Haldane is not in an academic ivory tower. If the Conservative opposition wins Britain's general election, the Bank of England will become directly responsible for regulating the country's lenders. Moreover, he has come up with some startling numbers. Using credit ratings to help quantify the implicit support that banks enjoy from the government, Haldane estimates that the UK's largest lenders benefited from an average taxpayer subsidy of 55 billion pounds a year over the past three years. An alternative approach, looking at the relative funding costs of big and small banks, suggests the annual subsidy is worth 30 billion pounds.

QE pause shows there is a long way to go


Mark Bolsom1.JPG

- Mark Bolsom is the Head of the UK Trading Desk at Travelex, the world’s largest non-bank FX payments specialist. The opinions expressed are his own. -

Thursday’s decision by the Bank of England to keep both interest rates and its asset purchasing programme on hold was hardly a surprise and had been largely priced in to markets.

Little chance of a rate hike until at least Q3


cr_mega_503_JaneFoley.JPG-Jane Foley is research director at The opinions expressed are her own. -

Bank of England Governor Mervyn King’s speech this week was well timed insofar as it has nipped in the bud a growing fear that inflation in the UK could be lurching higher.

Can inflation be controlled by raising interest rates?


MarkBolsom-150x150.jpg- Mark Bolsom is the Head of the UK Trading Desk at Travelex, the world’s largest non-bank FX payments specialist. The opinions expressed are his own.-

One of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee members, Andrew Sentance, was quoted this morning suggesting that the Bank of England will need to consider raising interest rates this year if a “recovering economy poses a threat to inflation.”

A tough spring in store for the pound


foley- Jane Foley is research director at The opinions expressed are her own.-

The pound has started the year on a negative note.  Ongoing concerns over the budget deficit, an impending general election, the prospect that the Bank of England (BoE) may yet increase quantitative easing (QE) and a drop in consumer confidence are all clouding the outlook.

from The Great Debate:

In praise of smaller banks, less volatility

-- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

If we want a world with safer banks, we need to be prepared for the consequences; lower growth over a painful medium term but the promise of making it up over the long run as we suffer less devastating financial blowups.

A banking system forced to operate with more capital and a higher proportion of safe, liquid assets is one that will shrink and charge more for credit, potentially retarding growth as we transition to a different mix of financing.

from UK News:

Too big to fail? Guerrilla central banking and the last resort


ukreuterscomDeciding it was safe to come clean because banks are now on a more even keel and the worst of the credit crisis is behind us, the Bank of England has told the nation that at the height of the turmoil it secretly lent Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS a colossal £62 billion, which is more than the entire British defence budget.

Both banks faced the imminent closure of high street cash machines and the curtailment of normal banking operations across the country.

from Breakingviews:

Inflation’s gonna be OK, says Merv

Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, sees a long, hard road back to the path we thought we were on before the financial crisis broke. Just how long is shown by  Chart 2 in Wednesday's Quarterly Inflation Report. The Bank's Monetary Policy Committee does not expect Britain's GDP to return to its peak, 2007, level until 2011, and there's an outside chance that even in 2012, the country's output will be no more than it was in 2006.

This "considerable period" of "sustained weakness of demand" is why the MPC's other fan chart, the "rivers of blood" projections of inflation, looks so benign. The best guess (sorry, "central projection") is plumb on the 2 percent target for the CPI in 2012. We all know, said the Governor, that inflation is going to jump in January, thanks to the combination of dearer fuel and rising VAT, but after that, it should slide gracefully back, wobbling around the target for the next three years.