Wednesday’s MPC minutes revealed that David Miles remained the one and only policymaker in favour of an additional round of quantitative easing (£25bn) at the rate-setting committee’s May meeting. We have to admit that we expected one or two other policymakers to give Miles some company in the dovish camp, but we maintain that he won’t be the lone dove for long.
This much has been indicated by Adam Posen, who has been expressing second thoughts with regard to his decision to abandon his calls for QE, pointing to a potential overestimation of UK growth over Q1. We’d be surprised if Posen fall back to his dovish tendencies in June. Though it may take more than Posen to worry holders of sterling, given that a 7-2 split on the QE vote still keeps the dovish very much in the minority.
One major point that could dissuade several policymakers to vote for QE is the fact that they believe UK inflation is equally likely to be above target as below it in the medium term without more monetary stimulus. In addition, current CPI levels, regardless of the recent fall from 3.5% to 3.0%, are high.
Nonetheless, it was stressed that for several members of the committee, the decision was finely balanced and the option remains well and truly on the table. The latest figure from the UK retail sector, combined with the softer start we saw to Q2 in the form of some weak UK PMI surveys, will increase speculation that the UK’s struggling economy is in need of some extra monetary help.
The key factor that could well have the final say on the BoE QE debate is of course the eurozone debt crisis. The situation in Greece has taken a severe turn for the worse since the failure of the ruling coalition to secure sufficient support at its recent general election. A new round of elections is due on June 17th, which could well produce an anti-bailout collation and lead to a Greek euro-exit. Meanwhile, fault lines within the EU leadership have been highlighted this week in Germany’s rejection of French and Italian plans to introduce a common eurozone bond (a Eurobond).
As shown by the euro’s recent slide, confidence in the euro project is waning. We expect the euro-region to return to negative growth this year and the financial shockwaves from a probable Greek exit are expected to be worse than those of Lehman’s. Consequently, we bet we haven’t seen the last of UK quantitative easing in 2012.
Analyst – Caxton FX
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