The Bank of England is finally catching a break. With Britain’s economy officially in recession, the BoE had been constrained from further monetary easing by a stubbornly high inflation rate. But as the global economy stumbles and Europe’s crisis rages unabated, UK price pressures may be giving way.
The fluctuating fortunes of the British economy in the last year have left forecasters in a fix, unable to make up their minds how much longer the Bank of England’s money printing presses need to roll on.
Central banks across the industrialized world responded aggressively to the global financial crisis that began in mid-2007 and in many ways remains with us today. Now, faced with sluggish recoveries, policymakers are reticent to embark on further unconventional monetary easing, fearing both internal criticism and political blowback. They are being forced to rely more on verbal guidance than actual stimulus to prevent markets from pricing in higher rates.
The focus is already on the euro zone finance ministers meeting in Copenhagen, starting on Friday, which is likely to agree to some form of extra funds for the currency bloc’s future bailout fund. What they come up with will go a long way to determining whether markets scent any faltering commitment on the part of Europe’s leaders.
The once-good relationship between Bank of England Governor Mervyn King and his most likely successor, Deputy Governor Paul Tucker, is coming under increasing strain, according to a new book by former Daily Telegraph journalist Dan Conaghan. It alleges King’s management style and and alleged disdain for the financial markets is to blame.
By J. Bradford DeLong
The opinions expressed are his own.
When the European Central Bank announced its program of government-bond purchases, it let financial markets know that it thoroughly disliked the idea, was not fully committed to it, and would reverse the policy as soon as it could. Indeed, the ECB proclaimed its belief that the stabilization of government-bond prices brought about by such purchases would be only temporary.
The BoE is expected to keep rates on hold at its monthly meeting today. Sixty-two out of 63 economists polled by Reuters expect such an outcome. Statistically speaking, that is more than a fair majority. But are we in for another upset like the one more than four years back? At that time, Simon Ward of Henderson Global Investors was the only economist correctly calling a rate hike.
Ben Broadbent’s appointment to the Monetary Policy Committee ought to dispel any notions that the Bank of England would be left short of hawks after the departure of Andrew Sentance.