Carney's Bank Of England Readies Guidance Push, Under Wraps For Now

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The Bank of England and its new governor Mark Carney will put the finishing touches to a fresh approach to nurturing Britain's nascent economic recovery on Thursday, when the central bank wraps up a policy meeting.

File photo of Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney winking at the start of a news conference upon the release of the Monetary Policy Report in Ottawa

The Bank of England and its new governor Mark Carney will put the finishing touches to a fresh approach to nurturing Britain's nascent economic recovery on Thursday, when the central bank wraps up a policy meeting.

But financial markets will probably have wait a few more days before getting details of the long-awaited steer on how long interest rates are likely to stay at their record low.

At his BoE first policy meeting nearly a month ago, Carney surprised investors with a warning that they were pricing in a rate hike too soon.

That pushed down sterling and British government yields, and launched Carney's governorship with a bang.

Economists are taking no chances this time around. They have warned of the outside possibility of a cut to the BoE's benchmark interest rate or more measures by the Monetary Policy Committee to try to encourage banks to lend to businesses.

JP Morgan entitled a note to clients: "Covering all the bases for tomorrow's MPC meeting." It put the chances of a change in policy at 20 percent.

The most likely scenario is that the bank holds interest rates at 0.5 percent and keeps on ice its bond-buying programme which has been dormant since October.

It is also expected to keep a lid, for now, on whatever agreement policymakers strike on how to convince households, businesses and markets that borrowing costs will remain low.

The MPC announcement is due to be made at 1100 GMT, shortly before the conclusion of the European Central Bank's monthly policy meeting which could provide more detail on its own plans to persuade markets that an interest rate hike is not on the cards.

The U.S. Federal Reserve offered no hint after its latest policy meeting ended on Wednesday that it plans to trim its stimulus programme soon, saying the U.S. economy is recovering but still needs support.

FROM OTTAWA TO LONDON

Carney used 'forward guidance' to help shield his native Canada from the worst of the financial crisis, pledging in 2009 to keep interest rates unchanged for more than a year.

It was that kind of bold move that caught the eye of British finance minister George Osborne who named Carney as the BoE's first ever foreign governor late last year.

Osborne has asked Carney and the rest of the BoE's policymakers to report back to him on Aug. 7, alongside the bank's quarterly economic forecasts, on the merits of bringing forward guidance to Britain.

Unlike in Canada, where he needed consensus from his deputies at the country's central bank, Carney has to win over the BoE's nine-strong MPC, including its independent external policymakers.

Several of them have expressed concerns about making commitments on monetary policy which could hamper their ability to respond to changes in the economy. Signs of a turnaround in Britain have begun to appear in recent months.

But the economy remains more than 3 percent smaller than before the financial crisis and is vulnerable to interest rates creeping back up in financial markets, especially at the U.S. economy picks up and exerts pressure on British debt prices.

With all nine MPC members voting against further bond buying at their July 3-4 meeting, the bank's focus on protecting the recovery seems to lie with giving clear guidance on rates, possibly by making a hike conditional on a fall in unemployment.

"There seems little doubt that Mr. Carney and his MPC colleagues will want to ram home the message to businesses, consumers and the markets that any tightening of monetary policy is a very long way off," said Howard Archer, chief UK economist with IHS Global Insight in London.

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