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A hike that takes us close to the top? The main thing we can gather from the Bank of England and Federal Reserve rate hikes and commentary is that they are data dependent now. That means central banks like the BoE will be hiking more than they and the market think. The important thing is now not what central banks tell us – they have said they will react symmetrically now – but what the data tells us. So henceforth we are looking at the data guiding rates and FX markets far more than what the CBs say about where they think rates might go – having raced to catch up they are now hanging on the data to guide them. 

The Bank of England recently increased its interest rates by 50 basis points, which was in line with market expectations. However, the bank indicated that it may tighten monetary policy further if inflationary pressures persist, highlighting that risks to inflation are tilted to the upside. Despite this, the Bank also lowered its projections for medium-term wage growth, which suggests that it believes that the current rate of growth may be near its peak. This aligns with the Federal Reserve's approach of being data-driven, as the central bank adjusts its monetary policy stance based on incoming economic data. 

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Bank of England recently voted to raise its benchmark interest rate from 3.5% to 4%, which marks the highest rate in 14 years. The decision was made due to the ongoing issue of inflation that has reached a 40-year high and has not decreased as rapidly as expected. The MPC was divided on this decision, with 7 members voting in favor of the rate hike and 2 members opposing it. This decision does not come as a surprise, as The Bank of England have limited options with the persistent inflation problem. 

The recent interest rate hike by the Bank of England caused a surge in the value of sterling and a sharp increase in the front-end yields of the market. This was due to the indication given by the Bank that inflation could be more persistent and would require additional tightening measures to be taken in the future. Despite this initial positive reaction, the GBP/USD exchange rate later retraced and reached its low for the day. This happenins as the market presumably perceives the tightening cycle as being close to completion; hoping there may not be even more interest rate hikes in the near future. 

 

As noted in our preview, moves in sterling are less about the front end and the immediate decision to hike, but whether the BoE starts to shift its medium-term inflation outlook on rising wages and more persistent price pressures.  

·         On inflation, the BoE says risks are skewed significantly to the upside but thinks inflation has peaked; sees inflation at 3% in one year.  

·         Wages are not seen racing higher and should cap sterling upside in the near-term. In fact we see the Bank reducing its wage growth estimate to +2.25% in Q4 ‘24, from +2.75% forecast in November; down to +1.5% in Q4 ‘25 from 2% three months ago.  

·         On growth, sees shorter, shallower recession than it did in November – decent upgrades to the forecasts as was anticipated thanks to lower energy costs and lower market rates. 

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