Baptism of fire for Carney as global economy moves up through the gears

The minutes of his first meeting.

The minutes of his first Bank of England MPC meeting reveal that the urbane Governor Carney in fact had quite a baptism of fire, having to preside over a meeting riven by dissent, which was very significant, tending to suggest that the MPC's commitment to keep rates "low, for longer", is weaker than first thought.

First of all, there was a bombshell line in the minutes, revealing some sympathy with market rate hike expectations. Governor Carney had previously tried to persuade the market to flatten the yield curve, labelling the market’s expectations for the quantum and timing for rate rises as "unwarranted", but we now discover that this view was by no means unanimous on the committee:

"Other (MPC) members did not think market interest rates were obviously out of line with their view of the outlook."

Yet more dissent came from MPC member Weale, who objected to the 18 to 24 months horizon embodied in one of the "knockouts" that would cause the Bank to raise rates before unemployment reaches the 7 per cent threshold. He felt that the 18 to 24 months horizon was too long, i.e. the Bank will be prepared to ignore a blip in inflation if it thinks it’ll be back below 2.5 per cent within two years, (oh yes, the Bank’s inflation target has effectively now surreptitiously risen to 2.5 per cent, rather than 2 per cent). "One member, while accepting the principles of forward guidance, saw a particularly compelling need to do more to manage the risk that forward guidance could lead to an increase in medium-term inflation expectations, by setting an even shorter time horizon; that would make clear that the forward guidance was fully compatible with the Committee’s commitment to meeting the 2 per cent inflation target in the medium term."

Evidence seems to be mounting that global economic activity seems finally to be accelerating-maybe even creating a more classically rapid recovery, as opposed to the rather anaemic variety we have so far enjoyed.

UK economic data is already on a roll, with significant recent positive surprises from employment and weekly earnings, Purchasing Managers’ Indices, (Manufacturing, Construction and Services), Industrial Production, the Trade Balance, and  of course, Housing Indicators. As for the US, the July unemployment report may have been a tad disappointing, but forward-looking indicators such as the ISM surveys, (both Manufacturing and Non-manufacturing), have recently exceeded expectations, retail sales look healthy, and the latest jobless claims figures were very good news.

Even the poor old Eurozone has managed to crawl out of recession, and China has become more supportive of growth. For example, China Daily yesterday noted that Beijing authorities are aiming to boost the consumption of information products and services. China’s consumption of information products and services is expected to grow at an annual pace of at least 20 per cent to reach CNY3.2 trn ($518 bn) by the end of 2015, according to a guideline released by the State Council yesterday. In another positive sign, China’s industrial power usage rose to a one-year high in July.

All of this means that bond markets are set to remain on the ropes, testing and pushing through recent highs in yields, returning to the sort of standard risk premia that normally determine the levels of long-term rates, as opposed to the search for safe-havens which has driven markets since the crisis broke.

Mark Carney. Photograph: Getty Images

Chairman of  Saxo Capital Markets Board

An Honours Graduate from Oxford University, Nick Beecroft has over 30 years of international trading experience within the financial industry, including senior Global Markets roles at Standard Chartered Bank, Deutsche Bank and Citibank. Nick was a member of the Bank of England's Foreign Exchange Joint Standing Committee.

More of his work can be found here.

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How tribunal fees silenced low-paid workers: “it was more than I earned in a month”

The government was forced to scrap them after losing a Supreme Court case.

How much of a barrier were employment tribunal fees to low-paid workers? Ask Elaine Janes. “Bringing up six children, I didn’t have £20 spare. Every penny was spent on my children – £250 to me would have been a lot of money. My priorities would have been keeping a roof over my head.”

That fee – £250 – is what the government has been charging a woman who wants to challenge their employer, as Janes did, to pay them the same as men of a similar skills category. As for the £950 to pay for the actual hearing? “That’s probably more than I earned a month.”

Janes did go to a tribunal, but only because she was supported by Unison, her trade union. She has won her claim, although the final compensation is still being worked out. But it’s not just about the money. “It’s about justice, really,” she says. “I think everybody should be paid equally. I don’t see why a man who is doing the equivalent job to what I was doing should earn two to three times more than I was.” She believes that by setting a fee of £950, the government “wouldn’t have even begun to understand” how much it disempowered low-paid workers.

She has a point. The Taylor Review on working practices noted the sharp decline in tribunal cases after fees were introduced in 2013, and that the claimant could pay £1,200 upfront in fees, only to have their case dismissed on a technical point of their employment status. “We believe that this is unfair,” the report said. It added: "There can be no doubt that the introduction of fees has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cases brought."

Now, the government has been forced to concede. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison’s argument that the government acted unlawfully in introducing the fees. The judges said fees were set so high, they had “a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims” and put off more genuine cases than the flimsy claims the government was trying to deter.

Shortly after the judgement, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop charging employment tribunal fees immediately and refund those who had paid. This bill could amount to £27m, according to Unison estimates. 

As for Janes, she hopes low-paid workers will feel more confident to challenge unfair work practices. “For people in the future it is good news,” she says. “It gives everybody the chance to make that claim.” 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.