Philip Bunn, Alice Pugh and Chris Yeates
Following the onset of the financial crisis, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) cut interest rates to historically low levels and launched a programme of quantitative easing (QE) to support the UK economy. How did this exceptional period of monetary policy affect different households in the UK? Did it increase or decrease inequality? Although existing differences in income and wealth means that the impact in cash terms varied substantially between households, in a recent staff working paper we find that monetary policy had very little impact on relative measures of inequality. Compared to what would have otherwise happened, younger households are estimated to have benefited most from higher income in cash terms, while older households gained more from higher wealth.
Aakash Mankodi and Tim Pike
Tetlock and Gardner’s acclaimed work on Superforecasting provides a compelling case for seeing forecasting as a skill that can be improved, and one that is related to the behavioural traits of the forecaster. These so-called Superforecasters have in recent years been pitted against experts ranging from U.S intelligence analysts to participants in the World Economic Forum, and have performed on par or better by accurately predicting the outcomes of a broad range of questions. Sounds like music to a central banker’s ears? In this post, we examine the traits of these individuals, compare them with economic forecasting and draw some related lessons. We conclude that considering the principles and applications of Superforecasting can enhance the work of central bank forecasting.
Noëmie Lisack, Rana Sajedi and Gregory Thwaites
An unprecedented ageing process is unfolding in industrialised economies. The share of the population over 65 has gone from 8% in 1950 to almost 20% in 2015, and is projected to keep rising. What are the macroeconomic implications of this change? What should we expect in the coming years? In a recent staff working paper, we link population ageing to several key economic trends over the last half century: the decline in real interest rates, the rise in house prices and household debt, and the pattern of foreign asset holdings among advanced economies. The effects of demographic change are not expected to reverse so long as longevity, and in particular the average time spent in retirement, remains high.
Jeremy Franklin, Scott Woldum, Oliver Wood and Alex Parsons
How do markets react to the release of economic data? We use a set of machine learning and statistical algorithms to try to find out. In the period since the EU referendum, we find that UK data outturns have generally been more positive than market expectations immediately prior to their release. At the same time, the responsiveness of market interest rates to those data surprises fell below historic averages. The sensitivity of market rates has also been below historic averages in the US and Euro area, suggesting international factors may also have played a role. But there are some signs that the sensitivity has increased over the past year in the UK.
Tamara Li, Nicola Shadbolt, Thomas Stratton and Gregory Thwaites
Consumption growth remained fairly steady in the immediate aftermath of the UK vote to leave the European Union in June 2016. But how did consumer expectations evolve in the first months after the referendum? We show with the Bank’s in-house household survey that ‘Leavers’ became more positive about the economy and their own financial situation after the referendum, with the opposite true for ‘Remainers’, and that this was reflected in spending by the two groups. But the size of the effect was small.
Ben Guttman-Kenney, Liam Kirwin, Sagar Shah
Consumer credit growth has raised concern in some quarters. This type of borrowing – which covers mainstream products such as credit cards, motor finance, personal loans and less mainstream ones such as rent-to-own agreements – has been growing at a rapid 10% a year. What’s been driving this credit growth, and how worried should policymakers be?
Marko Melolinna and Srdan Tatomir
Uncertainty is in the spotlight again. And the MPC believe it is an important factor influencing the slowdown in domestic demand (August 2017 Inflation Report). Previous work by Haddow et al. (2013) has found a composite aggregate indicator of uncertainty combining several different variables that does appear to have explanatory power for GDP growth; but as Kristin Forbes notes these measures correlate better with consumption than investment. So in this blog post, we look at firm-level data to explore measures of uncertainty that matter for how firms invest in the United Kingdom. Our aggregate measure of uncertainty has a better forecast performance for investment than the composite aggregate indicator does.
What could falls in sterling mean for UK firms’ ability to sustain foreign currency (FX) debt obligations? The value of sterling began falling around two years ago and dropped further after the EU referendum – remaining around these lower values ever since. There is every possibility that sterling may stay low for the foreseeable future – creating both potential winners and losers. In this piece, I investigate one particular channel for losses related to sterling weakness: whether UK firms could find meeting their FX debt obligations more challenging. By reviewing market intelligence, market prices and derivatives databases, I find limited evidence that sterling weakness has yet produced any significant changes to UK firms’ ability to manage their FX debt obligations.
Stephen Burgess and Rachana Shanbhogue
In 2016 the UK’s current account deficit was 5.9% of GDP, the widest since official records began in 1948. Many economists, including the IMF and FPC have suggested the UK is therefore vulnerable to foreign investors becoming less willing to invest in the country. In this post we challenge the idea that the UK is at the mercy of the “kindness of strangers”. Looking at gross, rather than net capital flows since 2012 suggests inflows have been extremely subdued relative to past levels. Instead, the UK has benefitted from increasing capital gains on past foreign investments and used these to fund its spending. We argue this carries lower financial stability risks than relying on gross inflows to cover the current account deficit.
Ben Bernanke famously remarked that “the trouble with QE is that it works in practice but not in theory”. And ahead of its adoption, many academics were sceptical that QE would have any effects at all. Yet despite QE being a part of the monetary policy landscape for nearly a decade, the bulk of academic research on QE has been on its empirical effect, with relatively little on theory and less still on normative policy questions. In a recent Staff Working Paper I develop a model which can provide answers to questions such as: “How should monetary policymakers return their instruments to more normal levels?” and “Should QE be part of the regular monetary policy toolkit?”