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Insights from the UK and beyond

from MacroScope:

The perils of predicting BoE policy

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BRITAIN/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.

The consensus from the last Reuters BoE poll last week showed interest rates would stay on hold into the fourth quarter, even though UK money markets have priced in a 100 percent chance of a rate hike by May. Since the January meeting, some of the bank’s Monetary Policy Committee members have publicly stated their determination to fight strong inflation.

But going back to January 2007, the only analyst out of the 50 polled by Reuters who predicted that shock rate hike was Simon Ward, chief economist at Henderson Global Investors. If the MPC does indeed flay analysts’ consensus this year by hiking rates before April, he stands to repeat his 2007 feat by being the only economist in the last poll to forecast a hike in the first quarter.

from The Great Debate UK:

Are interest rates set to rise?

USA/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.

from MacroScope:

Darkening outlook for UK housing

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The outlook for the UK housing market has darkened again. The usually optimistic bunch of property market watchers polled by Reuters, who have tended to predict ever-rising property prices no matter what the season or financial climate, now say the market will move sideways for the next two years.

housing1.jpgThey say that in the next few months, the small double-dip in prices that has begun will continue. Modest gains predicted less than three months ago for this year and next essentially have been wiped away.

from MacroScope:

Crisis, what crisis, time again in Britain

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Britain's recession, like the downturns in most other places, is being hailed as either having reachえd bottom or tailed off in its decline. The latest to trumpet the beginning of the end is the British Chambers of Commerce, which said business orders and sales had continued to fall in the second quarter but at a slower pace than previously.

So does this mean that the Bank of England will soon start raising interest rates from the negligible 0.5 percent reached last year as policymakers sought to pump liquidity into a failing economy? Not according to researchers Capital Economics, which argues in a new report that market assumptions of higher rates at an early stage are misplaced. They offer three reasons:

from MacroScope:

UK house prices close to a trough?

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MacroScope is pleased to post the following from guest blogger Simon Ward. Simon is chief economist of Henderson Global Investors in London and previously worked for New Star Asset Management and Lombard Street Research. His own blog is Money Moves Markets.

UK house prices are no longer expensive relative to a measure of "fair value" based on rents. Prices fell significantly below fair value during the major house price busts in the 1970s and 1990s but a big undershoot is unlikely in the current downturn because low interest rates will limit forced selling.

from MacroScope:

Show us the money

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It says something about the current world that a new economic indicator is about to be unleashed by the Bank of England and it basically tells you whether banks have been doing what they are supposed to do -- lend.

The first Trends in Lending report is due out on April 21 at 0830 GMT. Always nice to have a new indicator, but this one may get a bit more attention than would have been the case a few years ago. It is designed to provide up-to-date information about bank lending to households and businesses.

Web round-up: the ups and downs of investment ISAs

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With ISA season coming to an end in less than a month, investors need to act sooner rather than later to make the most of the tax-free benefits on offer. You can not carry your annual allowance of 7,200 pounds into the next tax year, so it is a simple case of ‘use it or lose it’.

But with interest rates plummeting to an all time low, returns on cash individual savings accounts are miserly. So are stocks and shares ISAs a better home for your money? Financial experts certainly seem to think so – and so it would appear do investors.

Can MV=PT solve credit crisis for BoE?

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Britain could begin a telling exercise in classical monetary theory on Thursday as the central bank gets set to test a newly minted policy of “quantitative easing”.

In an effort to pump more money into the financial system and encourage banks to get lending again, the Bank of England has been given the green light to basically create more money.

Rate cut round-up: “policy mistake” or “confidence boost”?

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The Bank of England’s decision to cut interest rates to a record low of 1.0 percent may have been widely predicted, but this did little to hold back the avalanche of commentary that began the moment the news came through at noon today.

Interest rates, which have now been cut five months in a row, are at the lowest level in the Bank’s 315-year history, and the list of people calling yet another easing pointless appeared to be getting longer.

Are interest rates at one percent the answer?

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The Bank of England has gone into further into uncharted territory with its decision to cut rates by half a point to just one percent. Many economists think they will be down to zero by the Spring.

But like gunfighter running out of bullets, the Bank is, in the view of some observers, just wasting ammunition by using the interest rate weapon.

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