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BoE: Outstanding value of residential mortgage loans up 3.8%

The outstanding value of all residential mortgage loans was £1.499bn at the end of 2019, which is a year-on-year increase of 3.8% according to the latest Bank of England Mortgage Lenders and Administrators Statistics.

The value of gross mortgage advances was £73.4bn which remains broadly unchanged in comparison to Q4 2018.

New mortgage commitments, or lending agreed to be advanced in the coming months, was 4% higher than in 2018 at £70.6bn.

The share of mortgages advanced in Q4 2019 with LTV ratios exceeding 90% reached 5.7%, which is a rise on figures recorded the year previously.

The share of gross mortgage lending for buy-to-let purposes was 12.4%.

The value of outstanding balances with ‘some’ arrears fell by 2.1% over the quarter to £13.4bn, and now accounts for 0.89% of outstanding mortgage balances.

Mark Pilling, corporate sales managing director at Spicerhaart, said: “The Q4 arrears figures from the Bank of England are broadly positive, showing another fall on the back of previous quarters.

“There was also a small drop in high LTV mortgages and high loan-to-income ratios – although single-income borrowers with an LTI ratio above four actually rose slightly, which could be a cause for concern.

“With the coronavirus Covid-19 already beginning to cause real disruption to businesses and people’s livelihoods, it remains important that lenders have a flexible attitude and continue to seek outcomes that are right for customers.

“There is a strong likelihood that arrears will rise as a result of the virus, and the measures imposed to slow down its spread.

“Lenders need to be ready for a situation where people are facing real financial difficulties through no fault of their own.”

By Jessica Nangle

Source: Mortgage Introducer

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UK inflation rate jumps to 1.8 per cent in January

UK inflation rose to a six-month high of 1.8 per cent in January, a significant increase from December’s rate of 1.3 per cent, according to official data released today.

The rate remains below the Bank of England’s (BoE) target of two per cent. The bump comes as a surprise to analysts, who had forecast the rate to rise half as much to 1.6 per cent.

The rise was seen as a vindication of the BoE’s decision not to cut rates at its January meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), despite fears of a potential recession.

Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda, said: “The MPC can now reflect positively on their decision to not jump the gun in January, on the back of some poor end of 2019 readings.

“There were too many one-off factors to explain the weakness and the level-headed approach appears to have paid off”.

Sterling initially rose 0.2 per cent against the dollar on the back of the news, breaking through $1.30, before paring its gains.

Activtrades senior analyst Ricardo Evangelista said that the boost showed the British economy continues to give signs of vitality “against all odds”.

The Office of National Statistics said the main drivers of the increase in inflation were increases in the housing and household services – gas and energy bills – as well as transport, which rose 0.2 per cent on rising fuel pump prices.

Recovering energy prices, which had taken a hit on the back of Ofgem’s introduction of the initial price cap last year, recovered after last year’s fall.

The retail and hospitality sectors also recorded rises, with the main contribution coming from women’s clothing. Despite evidence of increased discounting in December, the data showed little reduction in the number of items on sale.

Restaurants and hotels helped push the index as prices for overnight hotel accommodation fell by 3.9 per cent between December 2019 and January 2020, compared with a fall of 9.1 per cent between December 2018 and January 2019.

In a reversal from last month’s results, food and non-alcoholic beverages contributed a small negative contribution as December saw prices fall.

Ayush Ansal, investment chief at Crimson Black Capital, said that few would have seen this “curveball coming”:

“A rise was priced in but for inflation to surge by so much in just one month will have caught pound watchers by surprise. In just a month the doves at the Bank of England have gone from driving seat to back seat.

“With the chances of an interest rate cut now negligible, the pound will inevitably benefit”.

Robert Alster, head of investment services at Close Brothers Asset Management, said: “Inflation is ticking upwards, driven by greater consumer confidence, but does remain below target.

“However, despite this greater economic optimism, the UK is not yet out of the Brexit fog and the 31 December cliff-edge is only getting closer. The Bank of England will be trepidatious about bold monetary decisions until the scale of this post-EU disruption is known”.

By Edward Thicknesse

Source: City AM

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BoE: Mortgage borrowing holds steady in December

Net mortgage borrowing reached £4.6bn in December, above the £4.2bn average seen over the previous six months, the Bank of England’s Money and Credit statistics found.

The number of approvals rose to 67,200, above the six-month average of 65,900, highlighting that the market still performed steadily amidst the uncertainty of the general election.

Kevin Roberts, director, Legal & General Mortgage Club, said: “These lending figures from the Bank of England provide further indication that the mortgage market remained steady and resilient in the final months of 2019, even in the lead up to a General Election.

“At Legal & General Mortgage Club, we also saw a strong end to the year with a record number of completions for December, and with a reduction in political uncertainty we anticipate the wider mortgage market will enjoy further growth in the early part of 2020.

“Consumers across the country are still clearly reaping the benefits of a highly competitive mortgage market, whether they are taking their first step onto the ladder or locking into a competitive fixed rate when remortgaging.

“In many instances, these borrowers are drawing on the expertise of an independent adviser to help them find the right mortgage to make their housing plans a reality.”

BY RYAN BEMBRIDGE

Source: Property Wire

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Carney says BoE could cut interest rates if weakness persists

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said on Thursday that the central bank could cut interest rates if it looks like weakness in the economy will persist.

His comments sent sterling to a near two-week low against the U.S. dollar as he outlined a debate on the Monetary Policy Committee about whether interest rates needed to be cut now.

Last month and in November, two of the nine policymakers on the BoE’s interest rate-setting committee voted to cut interest rates to 0.5% from 0.75%, though Carney himself backed keeping rates on hold.

Britain’s economy grew at its joint-weakest annual rate since 2012 late last year, and many indicators of the economy remain downbeat despite signs of optimism among businesses and consumers following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s landslide election win last month.

While Carney also described reasons for optimism, investors honed in on the comments about a possible rate cut, which he linked directly to the current economic outlook — whereas previously he talked about cuts more as a contingency.

“With the relatively limited space to cut Bank Rate, if evidence builds that the weakness in activity could persist, risk management considerations would favour a relatively prompt response,” Carney said in a speech at a BoE event on inflation targeting.

Similar language was used in the most recent MPC minutes by Michael Saunders and Jonathan Haskel, who both voted for a rate cut.

Combining possible interest rate cuts and the prospect of more asset purchases, Carney said the BoE’s current armoury was the equivalent of cutting Bank Rate by 2.5 percentage points.

Money markets now price in a roughly 14% chance of a rate cut at the BoE’s Jan. 30 meeting, Carney’s last before he hands over the reins to Financial Conduct Authority chief executive Andrew Bailey, who takes over on March 16.

Markets price in a roughly 50% chance of a rate cut by the middle of the year.

“While this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise given that there has been a couple of MPC dissenters calling for lower rates at the past two policy meetings, it is the strongest hint yet for a rate cut in the not too distant future,” currency strategist David Cheetham of brokerage XTB said.

On asset purchases, Carney said there was room to “at least double” the BoE’s 60 billion pound stimulus package of August 2016, a sum that will increase further as more government bonds are issued over time.

Carney also gave reasons why the BoE might not cut interest rates, citing “tentative” signs that global growth was stabilising and ongoing tightness in Britain’s labour market.

He also said there were early indicators that there had been some reduction in business uncertainty since Johnson’s sweeping Dec. 12 election win.

The rest of his speech focused on possible changes to the BoE’s inflation targeting framework, which he said had served Britain well.

Carney said raising the inflation target, as advocated by some economists as a way to spur growth and escape from years of low interest rates, worked better in theory than in practice.

He also pushed back against those who think the BoE should use its quantitative easing stimulus to directly fund infrastructure or environmental spending.

“In my view, these should be resisted,” Carney said. “While carefully circumscribed independence is highly effective in delivering price and financial stability, it cannot deliver lasting prosperity and it cannot address broader societal challenges.”

Reporting by Andy Bruce

Source: UK Reuters

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BoE will cut rates twice in 2020, BofA says

Uncertainty around the future trading relationship between the UK and European Union will lead to two interest rate cuts by the Bank of England in 2020, a top-ranked research team said.

According to analysts at Bank of America Global Research, Britain’s gross domestic product was set to flatline in the last quarter of 2019.

However, rate-setters at the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street would wait to see how the economic data panned out following the general election before acting.

Their forecast was for a quarterly rate of growth of 0.0% over the three months ending in December.

“Uncertainty remains as unclear what UK-EU trade relationship will apply after next year. We expect short-lived growth bounce,” BofA said in a research note sent to clients.

Purchasing managers indices for the UK needed to “surge” in order to result in even a “mini” growth bounce, they added.

By Alexander Bueso

Source: ShareCast

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BoE might not be able to cut rates if Brexit delayed again – Ramsden

Bank of England Deputy Governor Dave Ramsden said he did not share the views of some of his colleagues who have suggested the British central bank might cut interest rates if the Brexit crisis drags on beyond the current Oct. 31 deadline.

In an interview with The Telegraph newspaper, Ramsden said Britain’s economy had been so damaged by uncertainty about Brexit – chiefly via a steady fall in investment by companies – that it could hamper the BoE’s ability to help it.

Referring to a scenario raised recently by the BoE of “entrenched uncertainty” if the deadline for leaving the European Union is pushed back again, Ramsden said: “I see less of a case for a more accommodative monetary position.”

Fellow BoE rate-setters Michael Saunders and Gertjan Vlieghe have suggested that another delay to leaving the EU might mean lower rates in Britain.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will take Britain out of the EU on Oct. 31, with or without a deal, but lawmakers have passed legislation which they think will force him to seek a delay if no transition agreement is struck in time.

Ramsden told The Telegraph that he was cautious about the economy’s growth potential due to Britain’s poor record on productivity which contracted at the fastest annual pace in five years in the second quarter.

Company wage costs were “picking up quite significantly, which will drive domestic inflationary pressure” while spare capacity in the economy might not have opened up much despite the weakness in underlying growth, he said.

“I think supply potential, the speed limit of the economy, is also slowing through this period. That comes through for me pretty clearly in the latest productivity numbers.”

The global trade war was weighing on firms’ willingness to invest around the world too, Ramsden said.

Several BoE officials, including Governor Mark Carney, have said if Britain leaves the EU without a transition deal, they would probably move to cut rates.

Ramsden said higher public spending announced by finance minister Sajid Javid would also be a factor for the BoE as it would mean “more money going into the economy.”

He declined to comment when asked by The Telegraph whether he had applied to replace Carney, who is due to leave the BoE at the end of January.

Reporting by William Schomberg

Source: UK Reuters

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UK rate cut ‘plausible’ if Brexit uncertainty persists: BoE’s Saunders

The Bank of England may need to cut interest rates in the likely scenario that high levels of uncertainty over Brexit persist, policymaker Michael Saunders said on Friday in the first clear signal that the BoE is considering a cut.

Last week, without directly raising the prospect of cutting interest rates, the Bank of England said Brexit and slower world growth were increasingly causing Britain’s economy to perform below potential.

Saunders – who was one of the first BoE policymakers to vote for higher interest rates in 2017 and 2018 – said it was now his view that the unpredictable path of Brexit would effectively act as a “slow puncture” for the economy.

“Growth has slowed to a mere crawl,” he told local businesses in Barnsley, northern England. “I think it is quite plausible that the next move in Bank Rate would be down rather than up.”

After the comments, sterling GBP= fell by as much as half a cent against the dollar to a three-week low, and short-dated government bond yields dropped 4-5 basis points as investors priced in the increased chance of lower borrowing costs.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to take Britain out of the European Union by Oct. 31, without any transition agreement if necessary, but is in a standoff with parliament which has voted to block a no-deal departure next month.

Even if Britain temporarily avoids a no-deal Brexit, uncertainty was likely to remain high, either due to the risk of a no-deal Brexit in 2020 or due to a lack of clarity about longer-term trading relationships with the EU, Saunders said.

“In this case, it might well be appropriate to maintain a highly accommodative monetary policy stance for an extended period and perhaps to loosen policy at some stage, especially if global growth remains disappointing,” he said.

British economic growth continuing at its current level of 0.1%-0.2% would be sufficient to justify lower rates, due to the risk of slack opening up in the economy and pushing inflation further below its 2% target, Saunders said.

The economy shrank by 0.2% in the second quarter of 2019 and last week the BoE trimmed its third-quarter growth forecast to 0.2% from 0.3%, while inflation dropped more sharply than expected to 1.7% in August.

David Cheetham, chief market analyst at brokers XTB, said the BoE looked increasingly likely to follow the U.S Federal Reserve and European Central Bank and cut rates.

“The economy is still barely keeping its head above water. Throw in the almost universally acknowledged continued levels of heightened uncertainty on the political front … and it is actually pretty shocking that a comment that a rate cut is ‘quite plausible’ has caused such a response.”

NO WAIT AND SEE

Simply waiting to see what happened with Brexit risked leading to inappropriate monetary policy, and the cost of reversing a rate cut if the outlook brightened would be low, Saunders added at the event hosted by the Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce and Institute of Chartered Accountants.

“In general, I would prefer to be nimble… accepting that it may be necessary to change course if the outlook changes significantly,” he said.

Saunders still agreed with recent BoE guidance that a limited and gradual increase in interest rates would be needed over the medium term, if Brexit uncertainty reduced significantly and global growth perked up a bit.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, Saunders repeated the BoE position that all policy options would be open.

Earlier this month, BoE Governor Mark Carney estimated in a worst-case, chaotic scenario that a no-deal Brexit could reduce the size of the economy by 5.5%. The Paris-based OECD has predicted a 2% hit in the case of a more managed no-deal Brexit.

Saunders was clear that a no-deal Brexit – advocated by some Brexit supporters as a way to resolve the uncertainty facing businesses – was not a good solution. “This would probably immediately leave some firms unprofitable. Others might face longer-term questions about their viability, or whether they would be better off relocating.”

Reporting by David Milliken

Source: UK Reuters

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Bank of England set to keep rates unchanged before Brexit deadline

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) who are the policymakers at the Bank of England (BoE) are set to keep interest rates on hold at 0.75% this week.

The MPC are to give their decision officially at noon on Thursday, they are also set to provide positive news as the UK economy figures show gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 0.3% month-on-month in July.

Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY Item Club said, “We expect interest rates to be kept at 0.75% with the MPC firmly in ‘wait and see’ mode.

“Current heightened domestic UK political uncertainties reinforce the case for the Bank of England maintaining a watching brief.”

Inflation has moved up slightly from 2% in June to 2.1% in July.

George Brown, at Investec Economics, said the BoE will have “plenty of domestic political developments to chew over.”

Adding, “It now seems a question of not if but when a snap general election will be held, with both sides of the House of Commons indicating a desire to go back to the electorate.

“Though the MPC will steer well clear of commenting on such sensitive matters, it will need to grapple with the implications of a possible change of government and with it a shift in Brexit policy.”

Source: London Loves Business

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UK mortgage approvals hit two-year high in July as market stabilises – BoE

British lenders approved the greatest number of mortgages in two years during July, adding to signs the housing market has stabilised from its pre-Brexit slowdown, official data showed on Friday.

The Bank of England said lenders approved 67,306 mortgages, up from 66,506 in June and more than any economist predicted in a Reuters poll that had pointed to 66,167 approvals for July.

Britain’s housing market has sagged since the 2016 Brexit referendum – especially in London and neighbouring areas – but has shown signs of a tentative recovery in recent months.

Earlier on Friday mortgage lender Nationwide said house price growth in annual terms inched up to a three-month high in August, although remained weak by recent standards.

The BoE said net mortgage lending rose by 4.611 billion pounds in July, the biggest increase since March 2016, while consumer lending increased by 0.897 billion pounds compared with a forecast rise of 1.0 billion pounds on the month.

Lending to businesses fell by 4.218 billion pounds last month, the sharpest fall since August 2017. While the series is volatile, the severity of the fall could be another sign of nerves in British companies as the Brexit crisis escalates.

Earlier on Friday Lloyds Bank said business confidence fell in August to its lowest level since late 2011.

Source: UK Reuters

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The only way is down for UK interest rates, say City economists

The UK economy is in contraction mode, but the Bank of England isn’t greatly worried. GDP fell by 0.2 per cent by the second quarter of the year as Brexit uncertainty and a global slowdown held growth back.

Policymakers at the BoE are reluctant to fiddle with interest rates as the Brexit date of 31 October looms. New Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made it abundantly clear that Britain could be crashing out of European Union without a deal.

Noises from the British economy last week will have comforted bosses at the Bank and cemented their “wait and see” position. Inflation was shown to have picked up to 2.1 per cent, wages grew at their fastest pace in 11 years, and July retail sales delivered a pleasant surprise.

It looks, then, like only the shock of a no-deal Brexit would cause Threadneedle Street to tamper with rates, which currently sit at 0.75 per cent. Yet the BoE has repeatedly said that in such an event rates could move “in either direction”.

City economists are not convinced by this argument from Mark Carney and co, however. Peter Dixon, economist at Commerzbank, says: “There would appear to be no good arguments in favour of a hike”.

The Bank’s logic is that a tumbling pound could push up the cost of imports and drive up prices. But Dixon says the effects would only be felt “over a six to 12 month horizon”.

Eventually, he says, the BoE will have “to weigh up” the risks to inflation versus the risks to growth. “But that will not be a calculation they have to make anytime soon”.

Oliver Blackbourn, portfolio manager on the multi-asset team at Janus Henderson, concurs. “In the higher-inflation, lower-growth environment expected,” he says, “the Bank of England will choose to primarily worry about the latter”.

He says lower availability of goods, services and workers for industry as well as consumers worrying about their incomes will weigh on economic growth. “This is likely to be the Bank’s main focus in its decision making.”

Turning the taps back on

Institute of Directors chief economist Tej Parikh says: “The precise shape of a no-deal Brexit and the scale of the government contingencies will play into the Bank’s final decision.”

Sajiv Vaid portfolio manager at Fidelity International takes a similar view, saying that in the event of a no deal, “the lesson to learn is that you cannot rule anything out”.

The shock could be so severe that policymakers might turn to the bazooka of stimulus bond-buying, or quantitative easing (QE), rather than the pistol of interest rate cuts. In even the relatively benign scenario modelled by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Britain would enter a recession in 2020 and unemployment would rise by 1.5 percentage points.

Dixon says: “The BoE can always resume asset purchases. After all, the BoE balance sheet is only around 28 per cent of GDP – a full 10 percentage points lower than [European Central Bank] levels”

Government help

Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at foreign exchange firm Oanda, says a no-deal Brexit would force “at least one rate cut and perhaps additional quantitative easing”. He says the Bank will be hoping that “unlike in the aftermath of the crisis, the government also plays a role in providing an economic buffer”.

Vaid agrees. “I think this time will be different and expect fiscal policy to play its part,” he says. Blackbourn also says he thinks rates would be lowered, “likely alongside a large fiscal easing from the government”.

Almost all economists disbelieve the Bank when it says interest rates could move either way if a no-deal Brexit comes around. Blackbourn says: “Despite the inflation-targeting mandate, the Bank’s first reaction will be to support growth and later worry about inflation.”

By Harry Robertson

Source: City AM