Global R*

Ambrogio Cesa-Bianchi, Richard Harrison and Rana Sajedi

Recent increases in interest rates around the world, following a multi-decade decline, have intensified the debate on their long-run prospects. Are previous trends reversing or will rates revert to low values as current shocks subside? Answering this question requires assessing the underlying forces driving secular interest-rate trends. In a recent paper, we study the long-run drivers of the global trend interest rate – ‘Global R*’ – in the 70 years up to the pandemic. Global R* fell by more than three percentage points from its peak in the mid-1970s, driven by falling productivity growth and increased longevity. Our results suggest that without a reversal in these trends, or new forces emerging to offset them, long-run Global R* is likely to remain low.

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Why lower house prices could lead to higher mortgage rates

Fergus Cumming and Danny Walker

Bank Rate has risen by more than 5 percentage points in the UK over the past couple of years. This has led to much higher mortgage rates for many people. In this post we analyse another potential source of pressure on mortgagors: the potential for falls in house prices to push borrowers into higher – and therefore more expensive – loan to value (LTV) bands. In a scenario where house prices fall by 10% and high LTV spreads rise by 100 basis points, we estimate that an additional 350,000 mortgagors could be pushed above an LTV of 75%, which could increase their annual repayments by an extra £2,000 on average. This could have a material impact on the economy.

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Profits in a time of inflation: what do company accounts say in the UK and euro area?

Gabija Zemaityte and Danny Walker

Inflation has been high in many countries since 2021. Some have said that companies have increased their profits over that period: so-called ‘greedflation’. We use published company accounts for thousands of large listed companies to look for signs of increased profits in the data. Consistent with previous analysis of aggregate incomes, price indices and business surveys, we find no evidence of a rise in overall profits in the UK – prices have gone up alongside wages, salaries and other input costs. Companies in the euro area are in a similar position. However, companies in the oil, gas and mining sectors have bucked the trend, and there is lots of variation within sectors too – some companies have been much more profitable than others.

Recent analysis by Sophie Piton, Ivan Yotzov and Ed Manuel has shown that corporate profits have been relatively stable in the UK and that profits are unlikely to have been a big contributor to inflation. Others have suggested that the trend in the euro area has been somewhat different. In this post we use a novel data source to look at this question: the information companies have reported in their accounts.

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Unifying monetary and macroprudential policy

Julia Giese, Michael McLeay, David Aikman and Sujit Kapadia

Central banks have been using a range of monetary policy and macroprudential tools to maintain monetary and financial stability. But when should monetary versus macroprudential tools be used and how should they be combined? Our recent paper develops a macroeconomic model to answer these questions. We find that two instruments are better than one. Used alone, interest rates can control inflation, but are ineffective for financial stability. Policymakers can do better by also deploying the countercyclical capital buffer, a tool that varies the amount of additional capital banks must set aside. The appropriate combination of tools can vary: both should tighten to counter a joint expansion of credit and activity, but move in opposite directions during an exuberance-driven credit boom.

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Has the import price shock been worse in the UK or euro area?

Josh Martin and Julian Reynolds

How much have higher import prices increased consumer prices in the UK and euro area? This post explores this question using a framework grounded in some fundamental economic and national accounting concepts. Starting with the GDP price, we adjust for relative import and export prices to arrive at a consumer prices measure – this gives us a sense of the impact of import prices and the terms of trade shock on consumer price inflation. For the euro area, aggregating imports across member countries, which includes trade between members, risks overstating total imports and thus the effect on inflation. Using supplementary data to resolve this issue, we find that the euro area terms of trade shock has been larger than the UK’s.

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Forecasting near-term trends in the labour market

Harvey Daniell and Andre Moreira

The latest developments in the labour market are often central to monetary policy decisions. We outline a framework for mapping labour market indicators to near-term employment and pay growth, drawing on established insights from the ‘nowcasting’ literature. The key benefits of our approach are: the ability to map a range of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ indicators of different frequencies to quarterly official data; the empirical determination of how much weight to place on each indicator; and the ability to shift those weights flexibly as more data become available. This framework beats simple benchmark models in our labour market application.

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How have recent changes to the demand for workers affected the unemployment rate?

Tomas Key

During the recovery from the Covid pandemic, the demand for workers rose to unprecedented levels in the UK. The number of jobs that firms were looking to fill increased to 1.3 million in the middle of 2022, 60% higher than the level in the last three months of 2019. The amount of job vacancies has fallen substantially over the past year, but remains at a high level. This post discusses how those changes to the demand for workers have affected the unemployment rate. In particular, it outlines how an equilibrium model of the labour market can help to explain why there appears to have been a change to the relationship between job vacancies and unemployment in recent years.

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Dissecting UK service inflation via a neural network Phillips curve

Marcus Buckmann, Galina Potjagailo and Philip Schnattinger

Understanding the origins of currently high inflation is a challenge, since the effects from a range of large shocks are layered on top of each other. The rise of UK service price inflation to up to 6.9% in April might potentially reflect external shocks propagating to a wider range of prices and into domestic price pressures. In this blog post we disentangle what might have contributed to the rise in service inflation in the UK using a neural network enhanced with some economic intuition. Our analysis suggests that much of the increase stems from spillovers from goods prices and input costs, a build-up of service inflation inertia and wage effects, and a pick-up in inflation expectations.

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Firm inflation perceptions and expectations: evidence from the Decision Maker Panel

Ivan Yotzov, Nicholas Bloom, Philip Bunn, Paul Mizen, Ozgen Ozturk and Gregory Thwaites

Since late 2021, annual CPI inflation in the UK increased sharply. Alongside this increase, there was also a significant rise in firm and household short-term inflation expectations. In this post, we use data from the Decision Maker Panel (DMP), a UK-wide monthly business survey, to study whether there is an effect of CPI data releases on firms’ current inflation perceptions and year-ahead inflation expectations over the past four years. We find that on average firms’ perceptions of current CPI inflation have been close to the eventual outturn. Furthermore, one-year ahead own-price expectations respond significantly to CPI outturns, with the effects being particularly strong since the start of 2022.

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Did supply constraints tilt the Phillips Curve?

Ambrogio Cesa-Bianchi, Ed Hall, Marco Pinchetti and Julian Reynolds

The remarkable stability of US inflation dynamics in the pre-Covid era had led many to think that the Phillips Curve had flattened. However, the sharp rise in inflation that followed the Covid-19 pandemic ignited a debate on whether the Phillips Curve had steepened and, in particular, whether its slope depends on some particular macroeconomic conditions. Which are these conditions, though? In this post, we argue that one important candidate that could explain this kind of state-dependency in the slope of the Phillips Curve is global supply chain constraints. We propose a simple framework to account for this state-dependency, and conduct econometric analysis on US data which supports its implications – showing that inflation in the US is more responsive to slack when supply constraints are tighter.

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