New UK bank governor Mark Carney warned yesterday that interest rates could finally be on their way up after over four years at 0.5 per cent.
The move would not be surprising for a number of reasons:
- Savers, particularly the elderly, are coming under increasing pressure due the low rates over the past four years.
- UK house prices have begun to recover. According to figures from the Land Registry, house prices in England & Wales rose by 0.9 per cent in 2012 and by 0.1 per cent in the first four months of 2013. Although this growth is moderate, it does show that the market is stabilizing.
- The British Pound has deprecated by 5 per cent against the US dollar so far this year. This has impacted on inflation which rose from 2.4 per cent in April 2013 to 2.7 per cent in May 2013.
- The UK stock market (FTSE 100) is up by 7.6 per cent so far this year in GBP terms and by 3.7 per cent in US dollar terms (as at 19 July 2013).
Increasing rates will a number of effects. It will:
- Encourage more investment in the UK bond market which will help support the Pound.
- Reduce consumer spending which will put downward pressure on inflation.
- Cause people to pull money out of the stock market and move it into cash.
- Put pressure on the housing market, particularly at the lower end.
The last point is the one that will weigh on the mind of Mark Carney the most. This is mainly due to the fact that over 60 per cent of UK individual wealth is tied up in the property market (according to the ONS). This is one of the highest proportions in the world and explains why the UK’s fate is so heavily linked to property. In contrast, German’s have less than 20 per cent of their individual wealth in property which shows why they are less susceptible to changes in its value.
In GBP terms, UK residential prices have declined by 12 per cent since their peak at the end of 2007 (Source: Land Registry). In US dollar terms the decline has been even more alarming at 34 per cent. This means that the average UK individual has lost over 20 per cent of their US wealth over the past five years due to the decline in property prices.