Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.
After more than six years at the Bank of England, Mark Carney will today announce his final decision on interest rates. And it’s possibly the trickiest judgement faced by the governor yet.
Carney, and his colleagues on the Monetary Policy Committee, must weigh up whether to slash borrowing costs to give the economy a lift, or sit tight and see whether there’s really a “Boris Bounce” after last month’s election.
The odds of a rate cut have been volatile in recent weeks — hitting over 60% at one stage, after weak growth figures suggested the economy was flatlining. But they have dropped back to 50% in recent days, after survey data suggested the private sector is growing again.
It’s a devilish decision. With Brexit due tomorrow night, the Bank might be tempted to cut rates from 0.75% to 0.5% to shore up confidence. But with new governor Andrew Bailey taking over in March, they might like to leave him some ammunition too.
Back in December, the Bank voted 7-2 to leave borrowing costs unchanged, with policymakers Michael Saunders and Jonathan Haskel calling for a cut. But since then, two more external members – Silvana Tenreyo and Jan Vlieghe – have both hinted that they could vote for a cut.
So it’s going to be terribly exciting at noon today, when the decision hits the wires. Central banks take pride in their ability to guide the markets through judicious communication, but today’s decision really could go either way.
James Smith, economist at ING, predicts the Bank will hold rates…. just.
It’s not clear that the remaining five ‘internal’ members of the committee will back calls for easing right now. Admittedly, we don’t have that much to go on in terms of communication, but as we noted at the time, our sense from Governor Mark Carney’s recent speech was that he hadn’t been fully convinced of the merits of cutting interest rates this month.
While his comments were perhaps the most candid he has been on the idea of easing, he noted the better news on politics, and pushed back on the idea that the Bank was running out of ammunition.
Also coming up today
Fears over the coronavirus are intensifying today, as the death toll rises to 170 overnight. Asian stock markets are deep in the red, with Hong Kong losing another 2.8%.
Yesterday, Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell said the outbreak would have an impact on the Chinese economy, and the wider global economy, adding:
Of course we are very carefully monitoring the situation.
European stocks are expected to suffer, as countries around the globe close their Chinese stores and factories. The FTSE 100 has just dropped by 71 points at the open to 7412, back towards Monday’s lows.
We find out how America’s economy fared in the last quarter of 2019. Economists predict growth remained around 2.1% per year — not exactly sizzling.
And it’s a busy day in the City, with oil company Shell reporting a halving of its profits, Unilever reviewing its global tea business, and BT warning that the UK’s curbs on Huawei will cost it £500m.
- Noon GMT: Bank of England’s interest rate decision, and monetary policy report
- 12.30pm GMT: BoE governor Mark Carney holds press conference
- 1.30pm GMT: US GDP for October-December 2019: Forecast to have grown by 2.1%, as in Q3