Three hikes over two days, but is the end of the road in sight? – Sterling Update

Three hikes over two days, but is the end of the road in sight? – Sterling Update


The Bank of England delivered another 50bps rate hike this week, raising UK rates to a 15-year high of 4% in the process. In doing so, the BoE also delivered what we in markets might refer to as a ‘dovish hike’, which may sound like a gymnastics move, but really only suggests that the BoE may be readying for a pause, at the same time as just raising rates. In their accompanying guidance, the BoE dropped the need to act ‘forcefully’, even if Andrew Bailey highlighted in his post-match conflab the ongoing need to battle inflation. There was also a slight tweak in the voting pattern, with the 7-2 vote in favour of the hike, and those two dissenters calling for no change. Interestingly enough, the BoE’s Mann also reduced her previous vote from 75bps to 50bps.

We have suggested in our daily commentaries this week that the BoE may not be in the position to hike UK rates after this meeting, given the weakening UK economy and gloomy outlook. The good folk at the IMF also predicted that the UK will be the only major economy to contract through 2023, with their latest guesstimates suggesting a 0.6% contraction, beating the likes of Russia to the bottom spot, although the BoE now think that a recession is likely to be much shallower than previously expected. In the meantime, given that there has been a myriad of different public sector workers striking over pay and conditions over the winter, it is no surprise that productivity has been diminishing.

On the data front, the latest update from the Nationwide highlighted the further decline in house prices, which declined by 0.6% throughout January, which is the worst run since 2009. Of course, these figures are likely to deteriorate further once the latest rate hike from the BoE eats into borrowing appetites. Next week will be dominated by the latest growth figures, which are expected to rebound after the previous month’s decline of 0.3%.

As for the pound, well GBP/USD had held up pretty well through the past week, until the BoE meeting put paid to that, with the pair slipping back below 1.2250. However, the broader dollar moves will still have a big say on directional bias. As for the broader pound, well there has been emerging weakness, highlighted by the decline in GBP/EUR, which dipped under 1.1175 yesterday (Thursday) afternoon.


The ECB followed the BoE, and raised Euro area rates by 50bps to 2.5% yesterday afternoon. In total, the ECB have now raised rates by 3% since last July, as they intensify their battle to fight inflation in the region, even if the numbers have been softening of late. In her press conference, ECB president Christine Lagarde also confirmed that the ECB would be raising rates a further 50bps at their next meeting in March. Beyond that meeting, the outlook has clouded a tad, with Lagarde suggesting that the ECB would ‘evaluate the subsequent path of its monetary policy’, which is central bank speak for checking that the wheels have not fallen off, before making their next move.

That last bit led some analysts to predict that the ECB are likely to pause rate hikes beyond March, which seems to have been the conclusion from the bond market, with yields rapidly evaporating amongst key Euro area government bonds. By way of example, yields on the 10-year Italian government bond slipped over 40bps on the day, which is quite some move in bond-land. The collective news of potential pauses on the horizon from all 3 of the Fed, ECB and BoE soon enough spurred a big rally in risk assets, with the interest rate sensitive Nasdaq, posting another + 4% jump at one point on the day.

Whilst most of the recent data in the region has been supportive of further rates hikes, including growth recovering over Q4 (up 0.1%, from -0.1% prior), some of this week’s data has not quite hit the mark. In particular, Retail Sales in Germany slipped 5.3% through December and Spanish Inflation unexpectedly increased, despite regional figures easing further. That may have had an impact on the ECB’s rhetoric.

As for the single currency, EUR/USD broke over 1.1000 for the first time since last April in the immediate aftermath of the Fed (not ECB) meeting, however, Lagarde’s somewhat less hawkish comments led to some profit taking, with the pair slipping back below 1.0900. Next week’s regional Retail Sales look the pick of the bunch.

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