Interesting article regarding Growth vs Inflation from FX They expect the pound to continue to weaken through 2011 :(’s analyst Valeria Bednarik says in the article below that the UK “monetary independence is both a blessing and a curse”, good point given the problems over the Eurozone periphery. It seems to be accepted by the market that the BoE is focused on inflation and not the recovery, as the BoE´s governor Mervyn King and Chancellor George Osborne have been busy these last six months. 

Looking at the numbers, year-over-year inflation was up around 4.2% in June, leading to speculation of a rate hike which could threaten the economic recovery, as growth remains stagnant with the quarterly GDP at mere 0.5% in Q1.

What happened during the first half of 2011? Too much news and too many decisions from the market, What will happen in the second half? Valeria tell us in the article below “TUG OF WAR: Growth vs. Inflation”. This is the fifth issue of our mid-year check up series, today delving into the situation in the UK with the Pound as the main character.

Tug of War: Growth vs. Inflation

With the crisis the world is living through right now, if there is something to say about the UK it is that their monetary independence is both a blessing and a curse. Back in 2008 when the financial world collapsed following the US housing mortgage crisis, that economic independence had let the UK act in proper manner, and the BOE quickly reacted by cutting rates, creating the assets purchase facility program, and in general favoring a re-balancing of the economy. Problem is, things haven´t gone according to the plan, despite the huge devaluation the UK is still struggling to recover.

And with growth still remaining mostly stagnant, the recovery path seems harder day after day with overwhelming negative fundamental data and rising inflation.

At one point, we may wonder whether the UK is actually advancing or at the verge of a another financial collapse. Especially if things remain unchanged and Chancellor George Osborne continues to insist that the government hold its nerve by not deviating from his plans to cut borrowing, despite the increasing evidence that this policy may be damaging growth.

Economic Growth Stagnant

The United Kingdom GDP expanded just 0.50% over the first quarter of 2011, compared to the previous quarter. From 1955 until 2010 the UK´s average quarterly GDP Growth was 0.59% reaching a historical high of 5.30% in March of 1973 and a record low of -2.50% in March of 1974.
While among the worlds’ most developed economies, it´s growth has never been close to outstanding, as we see from the previous figures, yet the main reason of the latest disappointing results may be found in a stalling manufacturing sector, a contraction in construction, and a sharp drop in oil and gas extraction. If something is giving support to the Pound these days, it is the strong oil near $100 a barrel. The bottom line is that when it comes to economic growth, the risk remains to the downside in the UK.

When it comes to the labor sector, the unemployment rate was 7.7% back in May. That’s barely above the 7.22% average from 1971 to 2010, so despite it being not a positive figure, at least the sector is among one of the better all things relative. The latest reading in June showed the unemployment rate was down 0.1% over the quarter and 0.1% on the year. Still the report showed there where 1.52 million people claiming unemployment allowances which was an increase of 24,500 from May. In particular, the number of men claiming allowances increased by 15,000 to reach 1.03 million and the number of women claimants increased by 9,500 to reach 493,900, the highest figure since August 1996.

The Minister for Employment Chris Grayling said this month: “There continue to be some encouraging signs in the labor market figures, particularly with the continued rise in private sector employment. It’s really important that we continue to support the economy and encourage businesses to invest and create jobs. However, we do not underestimate the scale of the challenge that we face to help people into employment.”

Inflationary Pressure on the Rise

While the UK has cut down their interest rate benchmark to 0.50% where it has remained steady since March 2009, inflation keeps rising above the BOE´s tolerance limit and was last reported at 4.2% in June over the year. From 1989 until 2010, the average inflation rate in the United Kingdom was 2.72% reaching a historical high of 8.50% in April 1991 and a record low of 0.50% in May of 2000.

While back in May this year, the BOE’s governor Mervyn King said that inflation was “uncomfortably high,” and officials signaled they may need to raise interest rates later this year even as the economy struggles to build momentum. Interestingly however, the fact is that just one month later the central bank turned back towards it´s prior dovish stance, with 7 out of 9 members voting to keep rates on hold. The flip from hawkish to dovish, has come after the committee lost its hawkish member, Andrew Sentance, in May this year.

And while the idea of keeping rates low to jump-start growth remains, inflationary pressure keeps rising. The thing is that the BOE would rather focus on containing inflation, rather than stimulating employment or growth. If inflation keeps rising towards 5.0% as Governor King expects, the BOE will may have no choice but to rise the benchmark in an attempt to control it. At the same time, economic growth will hardly gain traction without the help of the central bank, while the UK continues applying their assets purchase program, or QE, as they can’t remove it but only extend it: the quantitative easing program is another inflation generator for the economy. Up to this point, the tug of war the bank is trapped in will not result in a positive outcome no matter which side wins.

The BOE will have no choice but to sacrifice growth to contain inflation. While a rate hike may be expected by the end of this year, and we usually understand rate hikes as positive for a currency, I won’t be expecting too much strength for the Pound, not even after a rate hike. Unless some signs of recovery start improving the sentiment over the UK economy, the Pound is set to extend its losses over the second half of 2011.

Interesting stuff…. Thanks to

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