UK News

Insights from the UK and beyond

How far will central banks go in 2009?


The year 2008 has been filled with unprecedented events and all-time lows, a financial system overhaul and global turmoil. Could the New Year herald positive re-evaluation and a positive turnaround? And in what has been a year of sleepless nights for many, will a nation steeped in debt start to curb excess?

Rate cuts figured high on the news agenda as banks undertook radical measures to stabilise the economy. Within the space of one week, Britain saw the lowest base rate since the mid-1950s, the ECB took its rate to a two-and-a-half year low, the U.S. Federal Reserve aggressively slashed rates and a 175 point reduction was made by Sweden’s central bank.

The key question remains – will governments run out of weapons to boost the economy in 2009?

Gazing into a crystal ball has never been quite this tricky, and perhaps the most accurate prediction from industry experts is that policymakers will likely find themselves strapped for more tools to combat the crisis.

To the average citizen, sophisticated financial gadgetry will not alleviate fears of rising unemployment levels and inflation worries. Borrowing costs for those whose home equity and other floating-rate loans are tied to the prime interest rate may have seen some relief from rate cuts, but the gain has been negligible for others.

Two sides to sterling’s tumble


pound-coins-toby-melville.jpgSterling has extended its losses against the dollar to its lowest level in more than two years , trading just above $1.85. As recently as mid-July one pound would buy two dollars and there were plenty of tales of holidaymakers rushing to the United States to make the most of it.

It’s not hard to see why sterling is under pressure, even though inflation is currently well above target and the highest in years: rising unemployment, falling house prices, large trade and budget deficits, and slowing economic growth.