Swindon      01793 524444
Gloucester 01452 260729

Your Local Independent Specialist Insurance, Mortgage and Commercial Finance Advisors

The Bank of England hinted about where interest rates were heading and changed his mind

Tags: , , , ,

The Bank of England boss hinted about where interest rates were heading and changed his mind, creating a gentle form of disarray. After all, Mark Carney has gone and done it all over again. Having gained the nickname for his attempts to hint about where interest rates are heading and then later changing his mind, he did precisely that in the run-up to today's decision.

In February he offered up clear hints - about as clear as the Bank could be - that there would be a rate hike in May. Today that rate hike didn't turn up. But fixating on the process side of things is rather to miss the most intriguing thing in today's Inflation Report. Because the Bank doesn't really believe all the nasty data coming out on the UK economy at the moment.

Yes, the official gross domestic product figures in the first quarter were poor: 0.1% as opposed to the 0.4% the Bank expected. But the Bank's economists reckon the data may be wrong, and will eventually be revised up to 0.3%. It has left the vast majority of its economic forecast unchanged. If you believed the economic data, then it's pretty clear why you wouldn't want to raise interest rates this month. But given the Bank doesn't believe it, given it expects relatively robust growth in the next few quarters, why wait?

There is no particularly good answer. The minutes to the MPC's decision say that for the seven members who voted to leave rates unchanged, "the costs to waiting for additional information were likely to be modest, given the need for only limited tightening over the forecast period to return inflation sustainably to target. Or to translate: "No harm in waiting." There are a couple of other possible explanations. Either the MPC is really far more nervous about the state of the economy than its forecasts make out, so they don't want to lift borrowing costs in case the next few months are weaker than expected. This is the most likely explanation, but there is an alternative interpretation. A few weeks ago Mr Carney dropped a major hint that the Bank was less likely to raise rates this month than the market expected. Investors adjusted their bets accordingly, such that this morning the vast majority of them had put their money on a hold.

If the Bank had raised rates, it would have caused dramatic swings in markets yet again. Did this scare some MPC members from voting for higher rates? Either way, it underlines how difficult it is these days for market watchers to get a sense of where the Bank is heading. Mr Carney tells them to watch the data - but which data? The official ONS data, or the Bank's own assessment of that data?

Posted by MMB Finance Swindon and Gloucester on 14 May 2018