Investment - Articles - Industry comments on latest Bank of England rate rise


Industry comments from Cardano, Hymans Robertson and XPS Pensions Group on the Bank of England's base rate increase

 Shweta Singh, Senior Economist at Cardano, comments: The rate rise was at the lower end of consensus expectations that had been split between expecting a 0.25% or a 0.50% increase.

 The vote was 6 to 3 with dissenters preferring the more hawkish 0.50% increase. Dissenters judged that monetary policy should “lean strongly” against inflation risks and that a faster pace of policy tightening was required. The statement was relatively hawkish compared to the last meeting: it added that the Committee will be particularly alert to indications of more persistent inflationary pressures, and will if necessary act forcefully in response.

 We heard a similar, albeit a more hawkish rhetoric from the Federal Reserve yesterday, with Chair Powell backing up his previous comments that the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) has the ‘resolve’ to defeat inflation even if that led to increased recession risk in the US. The FOMC raised its policy rate by 0.75%.

 The meeting minutes make for an interesting read, revealing much of the Monetary Policy Committee’s (MPC) rather sanguine expectations for its future policy trajectory;
 • MPC members noted that the trajectory of economic activity was not materially different from that incorporated into May’s Inflation Report projections
 • The Chancellor’s announcements regarding fiscal support to offset the cost of living crisis are going to be incorporated into updated projections in August – it is expected that there will be a uplift to both growth (0.3 pct pts) and inflation (0.1% pct pts) from these recent initiatives
 • Indeed, risks to the present inflation outlook are characterized as “skewed to the upside”

 Looking ahead, the BoE still has plenty of work to do in order to tame inflation which, by its own expectations, will peak at around 11% later on this year. But, nevertheless, in staying with a rather moderate pace of policy tightening now, the BoE is staying mindful of the consequential damage that higher interest rates could inflict on the UK economy. UK economic activity is already subject to multiple headwinds. The MPC describe the most recent set of economic statistics in the UK as ‘mixed’.

 There is however a bigger context playing out in the way that central banks’ policy stances are changing generally; the central bank ‘put’ (i.e. the willingness of central banks to cut policy rates in order to support asset prices) is coming off the table.

 Indeed, we perhaps ought to thinking in terms of a central bank ‘call’ being a better description of policy conditions. We are entering a period when central banks will be willing to limit asset appreciation and economic activity with tighter policy settings in order to tame consumer price inflation.
  

 Commenting on the impact on DB Pension Schemes from the increased Bank of England’s base rate announced today, Ross Fleming, Co-Head of DB Investment, Hymans Robertson, says: “For defined benefit (DB) pension schemes the impact of any short term interest rate is unlikely to change funding ratios. However, the rise in gilt yields which are happening, will have an impact on Scheme funding. For those DB schemes that are not fully hedged against interest rate movements, this further rises in gilt yields could provide more welcome tailwinds for funding and present an opportunity to reduce risk and lock in funding gains. This increase could also have an impact on Schemes’ collateral positions, backing any interest rate protection currently in place.

 “We would therefore urge DB pensions scheme trustees to consider whether this interest rate movement is an opportunity to both take further steps towards shoring up the funding position as well as checking the impact on their Scheme liquidity.”
   

 Charlotte Jones, Actuary at XPS Pensions Group, commented: “Some pension schemes will have seen a marked improvement in their funding positions over 2022. According to XPS’s DB:UK Funding Watch, UK pension scheme deficits** have reduced by nearly £250bn. Schemes in a good position should start to focus on longer term security for their members, whether that be securing a scheme’s liabilities with an insurer or reviewing their investment strategy.”

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