MacroScope

Smoke signals from the Bank of England

Given the silence that attends Bank of England policy meetings which result in no change of course, today’s quarterly inflation report is the main chance to hear the latest thinking. Governor Mark Carney will talk to the media for an hour or so after its release.

The ongoing strength of economic data means the odds of a first interest rate rise this year are narrowing and one could certainly come before May 2015 elections, an unwelcome prospect for the government.

The main imponderable is how much spare capacity there is in the economy, which would allow further growth without feeding inflation pressures. There are differing views on that with no one quite sure how much activity was permanently destroyed by the financial crisis.

The Bank is expected to leave its growth forecasts unchanged today and may signal that it is comfortable with the view in markets that rates will start going up in the first quarter of 2015. It may also soon flex its new powers to rein in what is rapidly starting to look like a housing bubble, at least in London and its environs.

Among other measures, the BoE could recommend caps on the size of home loans granted in relation to a property’s value or a borrower’s salary although today’s inflation report is probably not the right forum to make such an announcement. There is also the fact that those measures would do nothing to curb the flood of foreign money pouring into London property and ramping up prices.

North Korea: New Europe?

Finance ministers and other executives busy discussing the future of Eastern European transition economies at a European Bank for Reconstruction and Development meeting were reminded of a country far from Europe which needs aid to transform its economy.

South Korea thinks its Stalinist neighbour should receive aid from the London-based lender, set up in 1991 to help former communist countries make the transition to market economies.

“I strongly recommend North Korea as a next candidate to become a recipient country, once it decides to transform itself into a market economy,” Young Geol Lee, vice minister of strategy and finance, said in a speech. “Please bear in mind that North Korea has great potentials as a future client of the EBRD.”

from Global Investing:

EBRD to puzzle over E.Europe crisis

Ministers and bankers meeting at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's annual gathering in London tomorrow and Saturday have a sorry mess to scrutinise.

By the bank's own (revised) forecasts, its region of central and eastern Europe will contract by over 5 percent this year. Many countries in eastern Europe took too much advantage of western banks' lending spree, and businesses and households are struggling to pay back foreign currency loans.

Falling commodity prices have hit countries like Russia and Kazakhstan, and a burst consumer credit bubble is risking double-digit contraction in the Baltic states and Ukraine.