Markets expect earlier rate hikes to quash inflation

The combination of the Fed’s more hawkish tone and the larger-than-expected rise in UK CPI inflation in May to 2.1% has led the financial markets to bring forward their expectations of when the Bank of England will raise interest rates from around the end of 2022 to shortly after the middle of 2022. Our forecast that inflation will fall back below 2.0% next year suggests that policy won’t be tightened until later, perhaps not until 2024. What’s more, when the Bank does start to tighten policy, we think it will unwind some quantitative easing first before raising interest rates, perhaps in 2025. This suggests there is scope for market rate expectations to fall back and the recent flattening of the gilt yield curve to be reversed. We are hosting a Drop-In at 1400 BST/0900 ET on Thursday 24th June shortly after the MPC meeting to discuss if the Bank of England will soon follow the Fed by signalling a willingness to bring forward the withdrawal of policy support. You can register here.
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Investors spooked by Omicron risks

The discovery of the Omicron COVID-19 variant in late November rattled UK markets. Equities tumbled, sterling weakened and corporate credit spreads jumped. And, while the initial reaction was not unique to the UK, it does seem that investors remain a bit more downbeat on the UK’s prospects relative to elsewhere. Compared to the US and euro-zone, credit spreads remain higher, sterling is still weaker, government bond yields have fallen further and the downward shift in investors’ interest rate expectations has been striking. Admittedly, equities have more-or-less recovered in line with other major benchmarks, but that seems mainly due to global factors pushing up the internationally-focused FTSE 100. For our part, we agree with investors that the UK’s near-term outlook looks fairly gloomy. In fact, we expect GDP to contract by 0.1% m/m in December, and the risks to even that subdued forecast are on the downside. But where we differ from investors is in our view of the likely pace of interest rate hikes by the Bank of England. We expect Bank Rate to reach 0.50% by end-2022, well below the 1.00% currently discounted in markets. Note: Central Bank Drop-In – The Fed, ECB and BoE are just some of the key central bank decisions expected in this packed week of meetings. Neil Shearing and a special panel of our chief economists will sift through the outcomes on Thursday, 16th December at 11:00 ET/16:00 GMT and discuss the monetary policy outlook for 2022.

15 December 2021

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Markets mistaken on speed of rate hikes

Although the economic backdrop has recently become less favourable for UK asset prices, we expect that the economic recovery will regain some vigour in the second half of next year, that CPI inflation will fall close to the 2.0% target in late 2022 and that over the next two years the Bank of England won’t raise interest rates as fast or as far as investors expect. As a result, we expect 10-year gilt yields to rise from close to 0.90% now to only 1.50% by the end of 2023 and we think the FTSE 100 will climb from around 7,225 now to 8,000 by the end of 2023. Relative to our US forecasts, the rise in bond yields is smaller and the increase in equity prices is larger. That said, we are not expecting the pound to strengthen against either the dollar or the euro. In fact, the risk is that it weakens against both.

22 November 2021

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Investors overestimating interest rate hikes

The extent of the shift in investors’ expectations of interest rates over the past month has been staggering. Investors are now pricing in an 80% chance of a hike to Bank Rate, from 0.10% to 0.25%, at the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting on 4th And a further rise to 0.50% is now fully discounted in markets by the meeting on 3rd February. We agree with investors that an interest rate hike in the next few months looks increasingly likely. But, in our view, the extent of tightening that investors have priced in looks wide of the mark. Instead, we expect the Bank of England to hike rates gradually and by less than most expect. That’s based on our forecast that economic activity will be soft over the next few months, and that CPI inflation will peak just shy of 5% in April 2022 and fall back sharply thereafter.

22 October 2021

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Investors do a u-turn on rate hikes

Investors have reassessed the outlook for UK monetary policy over the last month and have gone from expecting rate hikes at the start of May to expecting cuts now. This is partly because of a weakening global outlook and mounting expectations of rate cuts in the US and euro-zone. However, it is also because of rising concerns about a no deal Brexit. Indeed, we think that if there were a no deal, then the Bank of England would quickly cut interest rates, despite its rhetoric that rates could move in either direction. Concerns about a no deal have also weighed on sterling, which briefly hit its lowest level this year. But a weaker pound and expectations for looser monetary policy have supported equities.

26 June 2019
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