ETF Securities Research Blog

Bank of England…waiting for stagflation

The Bank of England has kept rates on hold at its meeting today, contrary to market expectations. Sterling staged a modest rebound, albeit from multi-decade low levels against the US Dollar, as the central bank held fire on further stimulus activity. The Bank of England noted that ‘most members of the Committee expect monetary policy to be loosened in August’, preferring to wait until its August Inflation Outlook report to gauge the impact of the EU Referendum.

The EU referendum has made the prospect of stagflation – the combination of weak growth and inflation – an increasingly likely situation for the UK economy. Although inflation currently hovers at 0.3%, the weaker Sterling (GBP) is likely to lead, at least in the short–term, to a rise in inflation via import prices.

A historical study[1] shows that the exchange rate pass-through for the UK could see over 10% impact on the CPI from currency movements. The 10% drop in the GBP could therefore result in a 1% move higher in CPI in the UK in the following 6-12 months after the exchange rate movement. The Bank of England calculates in its May 2016 inflation report that the impact from a 10% decline (since end-2015) in GBP could push inflation higher by 1.8-2.5% by end-2018. The GBP has declined 15% since end-2015, meaning the inflationary impact is likely to be greater than previous forecasts. The central bank concludes that ‘Ultimately, monetary policy would be set in order to meet the inflation target, while also ensuring that inflation expectations remained anchored.’

We expect that the impact of the EU referendum on GBP, and in turn domestic UK inflation, could be more persistent (in contrast to the Bank of England), especially in the event that inflationary expectations become unanchored. At the moment, there has been no real evidence of rising inflationary expectations in recent weeks. 5yr-5yr forward rates for the UK remain depressed, a seemingly direct result of the EU referendum. However, with fuel and food prices set to rise in coming weeks, a rebound could occur in expectations quite rapidly.

We anticipate that GBP is likely to be under further pressure in coming months, as the uncertainty surrounding the EU Referendum begins to show up in softer economic data and rising inflationary pressure from import prices.

[1] Campa and Goldberg, Distribution margins, imported inputs, and the sensitivity of the cpi to exchange rates, NBER, 2006.