Analysis: Historic day in the Bank of England’s 25 years of independence
Today was one for the history books.
The biggest jump in interest rates since the Bank of England was made independent 25 years ago.
A looming recession similar in length to the financial crisis.
The first time the Bank has raised rates while forecasting a protracted slump in recent memory.
It is a lot to take in.
Some will ask why governor Andrew Bailey and co are heaping even more pressure on to already squeezed households and businesses.
“If we don’t act to prevent inflation becoming persistent, the consequences later will be worse, and that will require larger increases in interest rates,” Bailey said after the decision.
Interest rates are key to matching an economy’s capacity to produce things with people’s wants and needs.
If a country cannot make enough goods and services to fulfil everyone’s demands, then inflation rises as firms take advantage of consumers wanting to spend more. Raising rates re-balances the system, in theory.
But, as James Smith of Dutch bank ING points out, our current economic predicament is not a demand-side problem, it is a supply-side problem.
There are not enough workers, prompting firms to raise wages to attract and retain staff.
The UK and European countries are competing with each other to secure scarce energy supplies after Russia has responded to western sanctions by sucking gas out of the market.
These dynamics mean we have fewer resources, reducing the quantity of things we can produce.
Inflation is now projected to climb above 13 per cent later this year when the energy watchdog passes on those higher energy prices to consumers.
Businesses are drowning under higher costs, meaning they are reluctant to hand out inflation matching pay rises over fears it will crimp margins.
Households will naturally respond to a drop in their spending power by reining in spending.
Those unfortunate enough to be laid off and tip into what the Bank of England thinks will be a more than six per cent unemployment rate will hope the government ramps up financial support.
All these headwinds are combining to deal a heavy blow to the UK economy that will tip it into a recession comparable in length to the financial crisis.
That softening erodes the amount of room the Bank has to keep raising rates at a historic pace.
But, the Bank is staring down the barrel of an inflation peak more than six times its two per cent target.
Central banking is a tough gig.