Sterling has rallied after better than expected forecasts from the Bank of England. The Bank noted that the economic standstill in the period between April and June was “less severe” than anticipated. While the UK economy has considerably shrunk this year due to the Coronavirus, it is now on a path to recovery, slowly picking up again.
Bank of England Monetary Policy Meeting
In its Thursday morning meeting, the Bank decided to keep UK borrowing costs at record lows, interest rates at just 0.1%, and its quantitative easing programme at £745bn.
According to its forecasts, UK recovery will take longer but the slump will be less severe. The Bank said that “the fall in output in Q2 is expected to have been less severe than was assumed in the illustrative scenario in the May Report. In that scenario, it was assumed that restrictions would be gradually unwound between early June and late September, but they were lifted earlier.” In terms of recovery, this will take time:
“In the MPC’s central projection, GDP continues to recover beyond the near term, as social distancing eases and consumer spending picks up further. Business investment also recovers, but somewhat more slowly. Unemployment declines gradually from the beginning of 2021 onwards. Activity is supported by the substantial fiscal and monetary policy actions in place. Nonetheless, the recovery in demand takes time as health concerns drag on activity. GDP is not projected to exceed its level in 2019 Q4 until the end of 2021, in part reflecting persistently weaker supply capacity. Given the scale of the movements in output, as well as the inherent uncertainty over the factors determining the outlook, the evolution of the balance between demand and supply is hard to assess.”
Labour market and employment
The Bank also warned that unemployment will rise sharply by the end of the year. The Bank’s monetary policy committee said:
“Employment appears to have fallen since the Covid-19 outbreak, although this has been very significantly mitigated by the extensive take-up of support from temporary government schemes. Surveys indicate that many workers have already returned to work from furlough, but considerable uncertainty remains about the prospects for employment after those support schemes unwind. In the near term, the unemployment rate is projected to rise materially, to around 7½% by the end of the year, consistent with a material degree of spare capacity.”
The unemployment rate is currently 3.9%, and the government’s furlough scheme is helping employers to keep their staff.
The Monetary Policy Committee highlighted the threat of unemployment, which will remain high next year too. The Bank’s economists said that the “Labour market slack persists over the first half of the forecast period, as unemployment is judged likely to decline only gradually after peaking in Q4. The gradual decline in part reflects an expectation that hiring will pick up relatively slowly, consistent with uncertainty affecting companies’ demand for labour. In addition, the MPC judges that there is likely to be some reduction in the efficiency with which people can find jobs. That tends to happen as unemployment rises, as some people take time to find new jobs, and their skills erode. Moreover, in the present conjuncture, the dispersed effects of Covid-19 on economic activity across sectors are judged to be likely to result in a greater degree of mismatch than usual, given differences between the sectors from which workers have been made unemployed and the sectors in which firms are posting vacancies.”
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday to discuss the Bank’s Monetary Report, Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey said that the forecast that unemployment might almost double to 7.5% is a “very bad story.” But he also said that it will eventually fall back to 4.5% by the end of 2022.
Negative Interest Rates?
The Bank of England said that it is currently considering the possibility of imposing negative interest rates in the UK, as other banks including in Japan and the Eurozone, have done. This means that banks will be charged for leaving money with the central bank, so they are forced to lend them. The Bank is currently deciding whether this will impact on the financial system, economic confidence and bank profits, as well as savers. According to the Bank, “the effectiveness of a negative policy rate will depend, in part, on the structure of the financial system and how the policy transmits through banks to the interest rates facing households and companies. It will also depend on the financial and economic conditions at the time.”
Transferring funds abroad?
Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey said that “There are some very hard yards, to borrow a rugby phrase, to come. And frankly, we are ready to act, should that be needed.” If you feel the same and you are ready to act, then get in touch with Universal Partners FX. Whether you are transferring funds overseas to family or for a new property, then Universal Partners FX team can help you access the most competitive exchange rates and make your stress-free.