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Bank of England Halts Interest Rate Hikes Amid Cooling Economy

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Bank of England Halts Interest Rate Hikes Amid Cooling Economy

The Bank of England (BoE) kept the base rate on hold today, marking a pause after 14 consecutive interest rate rises. The decision was influenced by lower-than-expected inflation numbers and a series of economic reports suggesting a cooling down of the economy. However, it remains uncertain whether the current 5.25% will be the peak for the base rate or if rates could start to climb again.

The BoE’s decision to halt the rate increases has significant implications for savings rates and mortgage rates, which were discussed by Georgie Frost, Lee Boyce and Simon Lambert today. The trio explored why interest rates were held, what factors contributed to the dip in inflation, potential future scenarios, and what these developments mean for savers, borrowers, and investors.

The BoE’s decision follows strong criticism for its failure to predict the surge in inflation that peaked at 11% in autumn 2022. In response to this criticism, the bank has commissioned former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke to review its forecasting models for both inflation and GDP growth.

An independent analysis comparing the BoE’s performance with other forecasting models highlighted two key errors. First, the bank under-predicted inflation in 2021 compared to an international econometric vector autoregressive model. Second, it over-predicted peak inflation in the final quarter of 2022, expecting 13.1% when it came in at 10.8%. These miscalculations led to larger-than-usual interest rate hikes and potentially increased the likelihood of a UK recession in the coming months.

The BoE’s forecasts have been accurate over a 15-year period but have faltered significantly over the past two years when inflation has been high. The bank’s forecasts have been particularly inaccurate following the initiation of quantitative easing (QE) in 2009, raising questions about its understanding of the policy’s impact.

The latest inflation data, published on September 20, indicates a 6.8% inflation rate for the third quarter of 2023. Both the BoE’s forecasts and the international econometric vector autoregressive model predict this fairly accurately, while other models over-predict.

In light of these findings, suggestions have been made for the BoE to be more transparent about its inflation model and to consider hosting a “prediction tournament” to measure its model’s effectiveness against rivals. This open-sourcing of forecasting harks back to an annual conference run by Professor Kenneth Wallis of the University of Warwick in the 1980s and 1990s, which assessed various institutions’ economic forecasting models. The revival of such a conference could be a part of Ben Bernanke’s review of the BoE’s forecasting.

This article was generated with the support of AI and reviewed by an editor. For more information see our T&C.

Economy

Fed pivot to interest-rate cuts seen likely to start in May

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Fed pivot to interest-rate cuts seen likely to start in May
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Federal Reserve building is seen in Washington, U.S., January 26, 2022. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

By Ann Saphir

(Reuters) – A stronger-than-expected U.S. labor market won’t keep the Federal Reserve from pivoting to a series of interest-rate cuts next year, but it could take until May for it to deliver the first reduction, traders bet on Friday.

Employers added 199,000 workers to their payrolls in November, the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report showed, more than the 180,000 that economists had expected, and the unemployment rate unexpectedly fell to 3.7%, from 3.9% in October.

Hourly earnings ticked up 0.4% from a month earlier, more than expected and an acceleration from the prior month. But the labor force participation rate also rose, to 62.8%, easing the prospect that an overheated job market will short-circuit progress on the Fed’s inflation battle.

A separate report Friday showed U.S. consumer sentiment improved more than expected in December as households saw inflation pressures easing.

The U.S. central bank is expected to keep rates in the current 5.25%-5.50% range when it meets next week, leaving policy on hold since July. Traders before Friday’s jobs report had put about a 60% probability on a March start to Fed rate cuts, but after the data reduced that to just under 50%, with a first reduction seen as more likely to come in May.

Further rate cuts are priced in for the rest of 2024, with the policy rate seen ending the year in the 4%-4.25% range as the Fed adjusts borrowing costs downward not as an antidote to a weaker labor market but rather to keep pace with an expected continued cooling in inflation.

The pace of that improvement in inflation will help determine the timing of the Fed’s pivot to rate cuts, analysts said.

“We maintain our call for the Fed to start cutting rates by mid-year, but it is contingent on inflation continuing to trend lower and further weakening in economic activity,” wrote Nationwide economist Kathy Bostjancic after the report.

Fed policymakers will release their own views of where the economy, inflation, and interest rates will go next year when they wrap up their last meeting of the year on Wednesday. 

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Economy

US consumers’ moods brighten as inflation worries subside – UMich

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US consumers' moods brighten as inflation worries subside - UMich
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A person arranges groceries in El Progreso Market in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, D.C., U.S., August 19, 2022. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger/File Photo

(Reuters) -U.S. consumer sentiment perked up much more than expected in December, snapping four straight months of declines, as households saw inflation pressures easing, a survey showed on Friday.

The University of Michigan’s preliminary reading of its Consumer Sentiment Index shot up to 69.4, the highest since August, from November’s final reading of 61.3.

The median expectation among economists in a Reuters poll had been for the index to edge up to 62.0.

“Consumer sentiment soared 13% in December, erasing all declines from the previous four months, primarily on the basis of improvements in the expected trajectory of inflation,” survey Director Joanne Hsu said in a statement.

The survey’s preliminary gauge of current conditions rose to 74.0 from last month’s final level of 68.3, while the expectations index climbed to 66.4, the highest since July, from 56.8 in November.

Consumers’ outlook for inflation in the year ahead plunged to 3.1% – the lowest since March 2021 – from November’s final expectation of 4.5%. The 1.4 percentage point decline was the largest monthly drop in one-year inflation expectations in 22 years.

Over a five-year horizon, consumers expect inflation to average a three-month low of 2.8%, down from 3.2% in November, which had been the highest since March 2011, when it reached the same level.

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Economy

Russian inflation accelerates in November, rate hike beckons

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Russian inflation accelerates in November, rate hike beckons
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People shop at a local market in the town of Rostov in the Yaroslavl Region, Russia April 15, 2023. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Inflation in Russia accelerated in November, data from state statistics service Rosstat showed on Friday, cementing expectations that the central bank will hike interest rates as it meets for the final time this year on Dec. 15.

The central bank has now raised rates by 750 basis points since July, including an unscheduled emergency hike in August, under pressure from a weak rouble, tight labour market and strong consumer demand. Analysts widely expect another hike, to 16%, next week.

High interest rates are one of several irksome economic challenges facing President Vladimir Putin, who on Friday said he would run again for president next year, although none seem insurmountable thanks to Russia’s success in evading a Western oil price cap helping to drive a recovery in economic growth.

In November, annual inflation stood at 7.48% year-on-year, up from 6.69% a month earlier and just shy of analysts’ expectations of a 7.6% reading.

The data suggests that annual inflation will exceed the central bank’s expectation of year-end inflation at the upper end of the 7.0%-7.5% range, which is well above its 4% target.

On a monthly basis, the consumer price index (CPI) rose 1.11% in November after a 0.83% increase in October, the data showed, coming just below analyst forecasts of a 1.2% increase. That was the fastest monthly rise since April 2022.

In the week up to Dec. 4, consumer prices rose 0.12%, separate Rosstat data showed.

Russian households regularly cite inflation as a major concern, with many having no savings after a decade of economic crises, while rising prices dragged living standards down across the country.

Rosstat gave the following details:

RUSSIAN CPI Nov 23 Oct 23 Nov 22

Mth/mth pct change +1.11 +0.83 +0.37

– food +1.55 +1.35 +0.40

– non-food +0.53 +0.55 +0.06

– services +1.23 +0.48 +0.76

Y/Y pct change +7.48 +6.69 +11.98

Core CPI y/y pct change +6.36 +5.50 +15.06

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