Wednesday, June 19, 2024

UK interest rate cut this summer ‘possible’ says BoE deputy governor, as house asking prices hit record – as it happened

Must read

BoE’s Broadbent: possible Bank Rate could be cut some time over the summer

Newsflash: The Bank of England’s outgoing deputy governor has suggested that UK interest rates could be cut this summer.

Ben Broadbent, the Bank’s deputy governor for Monetary Policy, said in a speech this morning that if the economy evolves as expected, borrowing costs could possibly be lowered this summer.

Broadbent explained that the direct effect on inflation of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war have now faded – what matters now is how long the effects of that earlier surge on domestic inflation linger.

Broadbent explains that the nine members of the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee must assess how those “second-round effects” in domestic prices and wages change.

One argument is that these second-round effects will take longer to unwind than they did to emerge. The alternative view is that firms are less able to pass on higher wages to their customers through increased prices.

He says:

There is a range of views across the Committee on this point. In view of the rarity of events like this over the past, and the associated uncertainty about the future, that’s entirely understandable.

Whatever the priors of its individual members the MPC will continue to learn from the incoming data and, if things continue to evolve with its forecasts – forecasts that suggest policy will have to become less restrictive at some point – then it’s possible Bank Rate could be cut some time over the summer.

*BOE’S BROADBENT: POLICY WILL HAVE TO BECOME LESS RESTRICTIVE

*BOE’S BROADBENT: RATES WILL BE LESS RESTRICTIVE AT SOME POINT

— Michael Brown (@MrMBrown) May 20, 2024

This month, the MPC voted 7-2 to leave interest rates at their current 16-year high of 5.25%, with Broadbent one of seven members who opted for ‘no change’.

The money markets currently indicate that there’s a 57% chance that rates are lowered to 5% at the Bank’s next meeting in June, while a cut by August is almost fully priced in.

Broadbent himself will only get one more chance to vote for a cut, at the June meeting, as he is leaving next month and will be replaced by Clare Lombardelli, the chief economist at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), on 1 July.

Share

Updated at 

Key events

Closing post

Time to wrap up… here are today’s main stories:

The International Monetary Fund is urging Italy to tackle its debts and boost productivity.

Following a regular assessment of the Italian economy, the IMF says it has “recovered well” from the shock of high energy prices and the pandemic, due to substantial support and a rebound in tourism.

That expansionary fiscal policy which supported Italy’s economy has also kept Italy’s deficit and public debt levels very high, the Fund warns, which is “elevating Italy’s risk premium and acting as a drag on private sector investment.”

Urging Rome to take action, the IMF says:

Faster than planned fiscal adjustment to reduce debt with high confidence can be achieved with limited cost to growth by withdrawing inefficient and temporary crisis measures.

Beyond the near-term, while maintaining a sizable primary surplus, additional fiscal effort will be needed to accommodate growth-enhancing investments and latent spending pressures and help restore fiscal space in the event of severe shocks.

Italy ran a budget deficit of 7.2% of GDP last year, more than double the 3% maximum permitted under the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact (SGP), while its debt pile fell to 137.3% of GDP in 2023.

The IMF adds that Italy “urgently” needs to reinvigorate productivity, adding:

Full and timely execution of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, followed by a successor medium-term structural fiscal plan that focuses on critical public infrastructure, research and innovation, education system reform, and improving the business climate, would support this goal.

Over in Chile, growth has been slightly below forecasts in the first quarter of this year.

New economic data shows Chile’s GDP rose by 1.9% in the January-March quarter, missing foreccsts for 2%.

Chile’s economy expanded 1.9 percent in the first quarter of 2024, data from the country’s central bank showed on Monday.

— CGTN Africa (@cgtnafrica) May 20, 2024

Morrisons today announced that it has started a process to reduce its debt load.

The supermarket chain is setting aside up to £1,000,000,000 to buy back debt, which has piled up since it was taken over in a private equity buyout.

Emma Carr, retail partner at the law firm Gowling WLG, says:

“This is a sensible and prudent approach that should allow Morrisons to start rebuilding its prominent space in the competitive and fast-changing dynamics of the supermarket sector at the earliest stage possible.

Ensuring that it remains as competitive as possible where customer needs are concerned is key – especially if it wants to attract further investment and return to its rightful place as a prominent player in the sector on the back of being in in touch with these fast-changing needs.”

Share

Updated at 

HSBC: The time is now – upgrade UK to overweight

Analysts at HSBC have raised their view on UK stocks to “overweight”, saying shares are undervalued.

HSBC give four reasons for their new optimism:

First, the FTSE 350 index is cheap relative to its own history and to other markets. Meanwhile, M&A could become a stronger catalyst with total transaction values this year likely to be higher than last.

Second, higher commodity prices and bond yields along with US dollar strength are tailwinds for performance. Third, the combined dividend and buyback yield significantly outstrips that of other markets. Fourth, the long-term structural overhang of UK pension fund selling is at an end; they simply have no more UK equities left to sell.

HSBC also reckon that a Labour victory in the upcoming general election is unlikely to surprise the market, adding:

In the near term, with public sentiment so depressed, it would not take much for optimism to return in our view.

Arguably, this note would have been more timely a month ago, before the FTSE 100 index of blue-chip shares began rallying to record highs….

YouGov Consumer confidence bounces back in April

UK consumer confidence has improved, according to data provider YouGov, as people grow more optimistic about their economic prospects.

YouGov’s consumer confidence index, just released, has risen to 108.9 this month, up from 107 in April.

Photograph: YouGov

Here’s the details:

  • Increases in short-term financial confidence (+2.9) as well as in outlook (+4.4)

  • Perceptions of job security among workers improves for retrospective (+0.6) and forward-looking metrics (+4.1)

  • Mixed bag for business activity, with improvements in outlook (+2.8) but declines over past 30 days (-1.1)

A chart showing UK consumer confidence
Photograph: YouGov

Demand for business flights down almost a third as economy moves away from corporate air travel

Demand for business travel to and from the UK has dropped by nearly a third compared to pre-pandemic levels, as companies have embraced home working and cut back on environmentally damaging measures.

Analysis from the New Economics Foundation (NEF) released today shows that flights for business purposes fell by 29 per cent last year compared with 2019, meaning 3.9m fewer trips were made.

The NEF also examined data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and found that businesses spent £2.9bn less on air travel in 2023 compared with 2019 (in 2023 prices), a drop of 22%. That, they argue, undermines the aviation industry’s claims that increasing the number of flights will drive economic growth.

Alex Chapman, senior economist at the New Economics Foundation, said:

Business use of air travel peaked in 2007 and has fallen further since the pandemic. Today, growth causes major damage to our climate while benefiting only a tiny group of airport owners and wealthy frequent flyers.

The next UK government should take a fresh look at its approach to travel and tourism, and focus on re-invigorating the UK’s neglected domestic tourism economy and coastal areas and the zero-carbon public transport network which will support them.”

Lloyd’s chair: become climate resilient or catastrophe insurance will become unaffordable

Kalyeena Makortoff

Kalyeena Makortoff

The chairman of insurance market Lloyd’s of London has warned that unless clients become more climate resilient, insurance against natural catastrophes is going to become unaffordable.

On a panel at the City Week conference this morning, Bruce Carnegie Brown said Lloyd’s of London were happy to continue to provide cover for customers but said insurance was there to deal with unexpected – not predictable – risks.

Carnegie Brown said::

“What needs to happen is that customers build more resilience…if insurance is to play a valuable role. Because, simplistically, insurance is there to support unexpected risks and if the risks become expected, then at some point the premium and the claim become the same number, and that’s not particularly helpful for customers.

“Another way of looking at it is insurance either becomes unaffordable or unobtainable, so the mitigation on that is to build resilience so that the expectation bar is raised and insurance can keep doing what it does best, which is protecting customers against unexpected risk.”

However, he said he recognised that insurance was based on historical data, and if something “exponential” was happening, as it most certainly was with climate, there was a risk that the insurance industry was “permanently behind the curve.”

He added:

“That is one of the challenges that we are concerned about.”

Ben Broadbent told the central banking conference at the Bank of England today that “the experience of the last two or three years” has made policymakers wary of cutting interest rates too early.

But Broadbent also points out that the recent behaviour of the UK economy – more in line with the Bank’s forecasts – was “reassuring”.

He also produced a chart, which showed that the Bank’s inflation forecasts in 2022 were “wide of the mark”, while recent forecasts have been much more accurate.

Photograph: Bank of England

Broadbent adds:

It’s unlikely this is because the MPC has suddenly become brilliant at forecasting (or that it was useless before). It’s simply because there have been fewer large shocks over the past year.

Michael Saunders: expect the BoE’s Monetary Policy Committee to cut rates soon

One former Bank of England policymaker, Michael Saunders, agrees that the BoE is likely to cut interest rate this summer.

In a new research note just released, Saunders says the choice on whether the first cut comes at Bank’s June or August meetings is “narrowly balanced”.

Saunders, who left the Bank’s monetary policy committee in 2022 and now works for Oxford Economics, argues that the MPC can move ahead of the US Federal Reserve, for a change, as the UK economy has weaker recent growth and rising spare capacity.

He adds:

As a result, and in a departure from practice in recent decades, we think the MPC is likely to ease ahead of the Fed in the summer.

Here’s the key points from Saunders’ note:

  • Historically, the UK has tended to cut rates slightly after the US central bank. It’s often been tempting – and usually wrong – to argue that “this time is different”. However, we think this time really is different and expect the UK will cut a little before the Fed in coming months, and cut a bit faster over the year ahead.

  • Unlike the US, UK inflation in recent quarters has undershot the central bank’s expectations and is likely to return to target in the next month or two. What’s more, recent economic growth has been much weaker in the UK than the US, and as a result, labour market tightness has faded faster in the UK. For example, unlike the US, the UK vacancy/unemployment ratio is back to pre-pandemic levels.

  • To be sure, the UK is sensitive to external monetary policy decisions and prospects. But the Bank of England would not be alone if it eased before the Federal Reserve. The Swiss National Bank and Sweden’s Riksbank have already done so, and the European Central Bank is likely to cut in early June.

  • We expect the BoE’s Monetary Policy Committee will cut rates soon, with a narrowly-balanced choice between June and August for the first cut and rates falling by 75bps by year end. This is a little earlier than our forecast for US easing, with a first cut expected in September and rates coming down by 50bps by year end.

Share

Updated at 

The latest UK inflation data, due on Wednesday, will help determine when the Bank starts to cutting interest rates.

Economists predict a big fall in the annual inflation rate, down to 2.1% for April from March’s 3.2%. That would mean it had nearly dropped to the BoE’s 2% target.

Energy prices will have a downward impact on the inflation rate, after Britain’s energy price cap was lowered last month, while food price inflation is also slowing rapidly.

James Smith, developed markets economist at ING, says the measure of services inflation will determine whether the first rate cut comes in June or August.

Smith explains:

We think services inflation could come in hotter than expected, and if we’re right, that would favour another ‘on hold’ decision next month.

City economists predict annual services inflation will slow to 5.5% for April, down from 6% in March.

Sky News: Online fashion giant Shein approaches Sajid Javid ahead of blockbuster IPO

Speaking of not giving China the cold shoulder…..

Sky News are reporting that Sajid Javid, the former chancellor of the exchequer, has been approached about taking a role at Shein, the online fashion giant which is progressing plans for London’s biggest stock market float for years.

They say that Javid is among a number of senior City figures who have held talks with Donald Tang, Shein’s executive chairman, in recent weeks.

Sky News’s Mark Kleinman adds:

City sources said that if the appointment of Mr Javid proceeded, it could see him either join Shein’s board or become an adviser to the Chinese-founded company.

They added that Baroness Fairhead, the former BBC Trust chair, was also on a list of candidates drawn up by headhunters advising Shein.

One person close to the company said the identities of those being approached reflected both the seriousness with which Shein was taking the issue of corporate governance and the extent of its focus on a London listing.

Exclusive: Sajid Javid, the former chancellor, has been approached about a role with the online fashion giant Shein as the Chinese-founded company progresses plans for a blockbuster London stock market flotation that would value it at more than £50bn. https://t.co/A7YBCVjFWW

— Mark Kleinman (@MarkKleinmanSky) May 20, 2024

Kalyeena Makortoff

Kalyeena Makortoff

Back at the CityWeek conference in London, the FCA has tried to assure City bosses that the regulator will take time and care in deciding whether to charge ahead with so-called ‘naming and shaming’ proposals, where the regulator would announce who it is investigating, earlier on in the process.

While public notification is common in some other industries, it has caused a stir in the City and backlash from the Treasury.

However, Sarah Pritchard, an FCA executive director in charge of markets and international matters, told the CityWeek conference:

“I know that there have been some concerns around our proposals to announce the fact of some enforcement investigations earlier on in the process where it’s in the public interest to do so.

Now we recognise that this is a sensitive and emotive issue, so we will take time to consider the feedback to engage further with industry and explore thoroughly the concerns and evidence shared with us with the aim of reaching a broad consensus.

Be assured that we do listen. We are evidence led and so will only act when a failure to do so would cause harm to consumers and undermine the integrity of our markets.”

Whether that will do anything to assuage concerns in the City, though, remains to be seen.

Ben Broadbent’s speech makes several interesting points about the UK economy.

He shows how the openness of the UK economy means its more sensitive to global shocks, with a chart outlining how at least 90% of variations in UK growth over the past fifteen years have been caused by “foreign (or at least common) shocks”.

Photograph: Bank of England

He also outlines how the surge in global trade and openness came to an end well over a decade ago:

Photograph: Bank of England

And this chart shows how most of the rise and fall in UK inflation can be accounted for by swings in prices of tradeable goods (such as energy products, manufactured goods, and food).

Photograph: Bank of England

That may mean that there is less inflationary pressure to come.

Broadbent says:

Clearly, the tighter labour market also mattered.

But the vast majority of the inflation seems to reflect the direct impact first of higher core tradeable goods prices following the pandemic, then those of energy and food after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In particular, it’s really only in the past year, as those direct effects have fallen back, that any material “second-round effects” on domestic inflation have begun to emerge.

Share

Updated at 

Broadbent: It’s been a NASTY time

Ben Broadbent’s speech is his thirty-eighth, and last one, since he joined the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee in 2011

He tells his audience at the Bank today that the UK economy was hit by several large, global shocks during those 13 years, which affected supply and costs more than demand.

As Broadbent puts it:

It’s certainly been an eventful time. I joined the Committee in 2011, when the economy was still feeling the effects of the global financial crisis (GFC) three years earlier.

That was then followed by the Euro area debt crisis, which perpetuated the credit squeeze in this country. After a period of relative calm we then went through the EU referendum and the negotiations that ensued, followed at the start of the current decade by the enormous effects of the pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

He then reminds us that former governor Mervyn King once described the years preceding the GFC as the “NICE” decade (standing for “Non-Inflationary and Consistently Expansionary”).

Broadbent suggests he has lived through a NASTY time, saying:

I’m not sure how one would characterise the period since (“Not-AS-Tranquil Years”?). But, if his description was designed as a warning that we couldn’t expect such stability to last indefinitely, he’s certainly been proved right.

Share

Updated at 

BoE’s Broadbent: possible Bank Rate could be cut some time over the summer

Newsflash: The Bank of England’s outgoing deputy governor has suggested that UK interest rates could be cut this summer.

Ben Broadbent, the Bank’s deputy governor for Monetary Policy, said in a speech this morning that if the economy evolves as expected, borrowing costs could possibly be lowered this summer.

Broadbent explained that the direct effect on inflation of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war have now faded – what matters now is how long the effects of that earlier surge on domestic inflation linger.

Broadbent explains that the nine members of the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee must assess how those “second-round effects” in domestic prices and wages change.

One argument is that these second-round effects will take longer to unwind than they did to emerge. The alternative view is that firms are less able to pass on higher wages to their customers through increased prices.

He says:

There is a range of views across the Committee on this point. In view of the rarity of events like this over the past, and the associated uncertainty about the future, that’s entirely understandable.

Whatever the priors of its individual members the MPC will continue to learn from the incoming data and, if things continue to evolve with its forecasts – forecasts that suggest policy will have to become less restrictive at some point – then it’s possible Bank Rate could be cut some time over the summer.

*BOE’S BROADBENT: POLICY WILL HAVE TO BECOME LESS RESTRICTIVE

*BOE’S BROADBENT: RATES WILL BE LESS RESTRICTIVE AT SOME POINT

— Michael Brown (@MrMBrown) May 20, 2024

This month, the MPC voted 7-2 to leave interest rates at their current 16-year high of 5.25%, with Broadbent one of seven members who opted for ‘no change’.

The money markets currently indicate that there’s a 57% chance that rates are lowered to 5% at the Bank’s next meeting in June, while a cut by August is almost fully priced in.

Broadbent himself will only get one more chance to vote for a cut, at the June meeting, as he is leaving next month and will be replaced by Clare Lombardelli, the chief economist at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), on 1 July.

Share

Updated at 

LSE CEO pushes for higher executive pay

Kalyeena Makortoff

Kalyeena Makortoff

The London Stock Exchange CEO Julia Hoggett has continued the bourse’s campaign for UK companies to offer higher – and what they claim is more globally competitive – executive pay.

Speaking to attendees of the CityWeek conference today, Hoggett praised company board members for sticking their necks out and offering bigger payouts to bosses this year, even if it proved unpopular with some shareholders.

“We’ve also seen a far greater willingness of remuneration committees to sit on what I call ‘the naughty step’ by accepting that some resolutions will gather more than 20% of votes cast against them, thus requiring an explanation from the company under the corporate governance code and inclusion in the IA’s [Investment Association] public register.

This creates an arbitrarily high 80% threshold for resolutions, which is something that CMIT [Capital Markets Industry Taskforce] has called to be removed.

Although we’ve started to see a change in mindset from some very significant asset managers, such that the number of companies with significantly enhanced remuneration packages have, nevertheless, this season received 80% support.”

She also suggested that more companies should be hiking pay – since the consequences of doing so would be less problematic if every boardroom was moving in the same direction:

“It remains my belief, however, that this remains more in our hands than we think. As parents we all know that the naughty step is not a naughty step if everybody’s sitting on it.”

Latest article