BoE repo rate: White flag in Threadneedle Street
The Bank of England’s surprise decision to slash its repo rate by 150 basis points to 3% could well be taken as a sign of the UK central banks complete capitulation. Alternatively, it could be that the Old Lady has woken up and realised that its inflation fight is not a priority when the wider economy is going down.
However, the initial reaction for many will be that the BoE’s monetary policy committee has now lost any credibility it may have had.
Of course, with its narrow focus on inflation, the MPC has had its hands tied. While it was obvious to anyone in the real world that price pressures were almost totally due to energy costs, most of the MPC did what the government asked and focused on inflation. Realistically, nobody expected oil prices to halve in a few months, but once the dollar had so clearly turned, it was obvious they were going down.
To use one analogy, the BoE found itself caught in a trench that was about to be over run. Facing a wave of economic panzers, it could cut by its normal 25 basis points and retreat the next trench. But then it would have had to do the same thing again and again until it was finally defeated. Strategy suggests it would have been better to cut by 2 percentage points in one go, retreat fully and then regroup.
It seems that’s almost what the BoE has decided to do. Run away and fight another day.