Sterling HOD, FTSE weaker as markets digest slightly hawkish BoE

After a bit of time to digest the Bank of England decision, it looks to have provided that hawkish pivot we’d anticipated. But I would not say it’s enough to really tell the market that it will fulfil its mandate to keep inflation in check and ensure longer-term inflation expectations remain in check. A missed opportunity, I would say, to get a better grip on inflation expectations.

Key points

• MPC votes 7-2 to maintain QE, unanimous on rates
• Ramsden joins Saunders in voting to scale back the QE programme to £840bn, ending it immediately
• CPI inflation is expected to rise further in the near term, to slightly above 4% in 2021 Q4 – and the BoE signalled greater risk it would be above target for most of 2022
• Overall, Bank staff had revised down their expectations for 2021 Q3 GDP growth from 2.9% at the time of the August Report to 2.1%, in part reflecting the emergence of some supply constraints on output
• Shift in forward guidance: MPC noted ‘some developments … [since the August Monetary Policy Report] … appear to have strengthened’ the case for tightening monetary policy.
• Rate hikes could come early, even before end of QE: “All members in this group agreed that any future initial tightening of monetary policy should be implemented by an increase in Bank Rate, even if that tightening became appropriate before the end of the existing UK government bond asset purchase programme.”

Market reaction thus far

• GBPUSD has rallied to highest since Monday off a month low and is looking to hold above 1.37, having risen one big figure today. Needs 1.3740 for bulls to regain control, big test here with trend support recently tested at the neckline. Question is this mildly hawkish pivot is enough to put the floor under GBP. I would still argue for softer dollar into year end allow GBP (and EUR) some scope to strengthen, particularly if the BoE is progressing towards raising rates sooner than previously thought.
• That sterling strength sent the FTSE 100 lower after a solid morning session, leaving the blue chips flat on the session, around 45pts off the highs of the day. Looking now for a lift from Wall St with US futures indicated higher: S&P 500 around 4420, Dow Jones at 34,460.
• 2yr gilt yields jumped to +0.3435% from around 0.28% earlier in the day as markets moved expectations for the first 15bps rate hike forward to Feb 2022.

GBPUSD chart 23.09.2021

Summary view

The BoE trying to tell what we already know without telling us what we already know; ie, that inflation is way stickier than they thought it would be. The BoE said “there are some signs that cost pressures may prove more persistent. Some financial market indicators of inflation expectations have risen somewhat”. Somewhat what? It’s all a bit wishy washy. The problem is the dogma of transient inflation is hard to shake without admitting that they were plain wrong on a very basic assessment of the economic outlook. “The committee’s central expectation continues to be that current elevated global cost pressures will prove transitory,” the statement from the BoE said.

Earlier, PMIs show across Europe and Britain growth momentum is waning, inflation is sticking. The UK composite PMI revealed further loss of growth momentum as output slowed to the weakest in 7 months, whilst the rate of input cost inflation accelerated and charges raised to the greatest extent on record.

Taken together with the PMIs this morning and the Fed last night we are presented with a very simple picture: growth is slowing, supply constraints are deepening, inflation is proving way more persistent than central banks anticipated. This could have important consequences for monetary policy going forward, but for now the CBs are still waiting it out and getting further behind the curve. A bitter pill today has been avoided, but the medicine required will be harder to swallow when it finally comes. Rates are going to need to rise to tame inflation.