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.

Photo: Getty Images
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There are risks as well as opportunities ahead for George Osborne

The Chancellor is in a tight spot, but expect his political wiles to be on full display, says Spencer Thompson.

The most significant fiscal event of this parliament will take place in late November, when the Chancellor presents the spending review setting out his plans for funding government departments over the next four years. This week, across Whitehall and up and down the country, ministers, lobbyists, advocacy groups and town halls are busily finalising their pitches ahead of Friday’s deadline for submissions to the review

It is difficult to overstate the challenge faced by the Chancellor. Under his current spending forecast and planned protections for the NHS, schools, defence and international aid spending, other areas of government will need to be cut by 16.4 per cent in real terms between 2015/16 and 2019/20. Focusing on services spending outside of protected areas, the cumulative cut will reach 26.5 per cent. Despite this, the Chancellor nonetheless has significant room for manoeuvre.

Firstly, under plans unveiled at the budget, the government intends to expand capital investment significantly in both 2018-19 and 2019-20. Over the last parliament capital spending was cut by around a quarter, but between now and 2019-20 it will grow by almost 20 per cent. How this growth in spending should be distributed across departments and between investment projects should be at the heart of the spending review.

In a paper published on Monday, we highlighted three urgent priorities for any additional capital spending: re-balancing transport investment away from London and the greater South East towards the North of England, a £2bn per year boost in public spending on housebuilding, and £1bn of extra investment per year in energy efficiency improvements for fuel-poor households.

Secondly, despite the tough fiscal environment, the Chancellor has the scope to fund a range of areas of policy in dire need of extra resources. These include social care, where rising costs at a time of falling resources are set to generate a severe funding squeeze for local government, 16-19 education, where many 6th-form and FE colleges are at risk of great financial difficulty, and funding a guaranteed paid job for young people in long-term unemployment. Our paper suggests a range of options for how to put these and other areas of policy on a sustainable funding footing.

There is a political angle to this as well. The Conservatives are keen to be seen as a party representing all working people, as shown by the "blue-collar Conservatism" agenda. In addition, the spending review offers the Conservative party the opportunity to return to ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ as a going concern.  If they are truly serious about being seen in this light, this should be reflected in a social investment agenda pursued through the spending review that promotes employment and secures a future for public services outside the NHS and schools.

This will come at a cost, however. In our paper, we show how the Chancellor could fund our package of proposed policies without increasing the pain on other areas of government, while remaining consistent with the government’s fiscal rules that require him to reach a surplus on overall government borrowing by 2019-20. We do not agree that the Government needs to reach a surplus in that year. But given this target wont be scrapped ahead of the spending review, we suggest that he should target a slightly lower surplus in 2019/20 of £7bn, with the deficit the year before being £2bn higher. In addition, we propose several revenue-raising measures in line with recent government tax policy that together would unlock an additional £5bn of resource for government departments.

Make no mistake, this will be a tough settlement for government departments and for public services. But the Chancellor does have a range of options open as he plans the upcoming spending review. Expect his reputation as a highly political Chancellor to be on full display.

Spencer Thompson is economic analyst at IPPR