Bank of England deals blow to sterling, global outlook

Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney arrives for an Inflation Report press conference, at the Bank of England, in London, Thursday on Thursday.

Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney arrives for an Inflation Report press conference, at the Bank of England, in London, Thursday on Thursday.


European stock markets gained while sterling sank on Thursday after the Bank of England poured cold water on the idea that the road is clear for it and the Federal Reserve to start raising interest rates shortly.

Asian markets ended mixed and oil prices flat, but Wall Street looked set to open higher, turning back falls a day earlier on signals the US central bank will seriously consider raising rates next month.

An adverse reaction from global markets to September’s policy meeting put the Fed off hiking when many had expected it to, but there have been some signs this time that investors have grown more sanguine about the likely fallout.

Bank of England chief Mark Carney, who had previously played down threats to major economies from slowing growth in China and other emerging markets, sent a surprisingly cautious message that pointed to UK borrowing costs remaining on hold until 2017.

The pound fell a full cent against the dollar in response, but the US currency also handed back all of its gains in morning trade to stand flat on the day.

“The Bank of England held off tightening today and arguably had little choice but to, for as long as other central banks around the world remain in delaying and/or stimulatory mode,” said Charles Hepworth, Investment Director at asset manager GAM.

“While the US is likely to be the first mover on interest rate normalization, the continuing recent delays from the Fed have added further uncertainty to global central bank decision making.”

Data on Thursday showed that US weekly jobless claims rose by the most in eight months, while labour costs in the third quarter rose far less than expected.

The dollar had surged to a three-month high and Asian stocks fallen earlier as expectations hardened of the first rise in US rates in almost a decade coming next month.

Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen and two senior colleagues pointed to December as a “live possibility” for a rise, adding to signs that the Fed is again on the verge of moving after months of vacillating over the domestic and global economy’s ability to deal with higher borrowing costs.

European stocks, after falling 0.1-0.3 percent in early trade, were up around 0.1 percent, with both Frankfurt and Paris around 1 percent higher, helped by strong results for sporting goods maker Adidas and French bank Societe Generale.

According to data from Thomson Reuters StarMine, 50 percent of European companies reporting so far this quarter have met or beaten analysts’ earnings forecasts.

“We find that investors have differentiated more between winners and losers during the Q3 reporting season compared to recent quarters,” said JP Morgan analyst Emmanuel Cau.

“The stock prices of the companies beating estimates have been strongly rewarded on the day, while the stocks missing estimates have underperformed significantly.”

The gap between US and German two-year bond yields also spread to its widest in nine years, reflecting expectations that the European Central Bank is likely to head in the opposite direction to the Fed in December.

“It looks like we have to seriously prepare for the prospect of the two major central banks embarking on opposing paths of monetary policy in December,” ING‘s senior rate strategist Martin van Vliet said.

After rising as high as $1.0834 per euro in early trade in Europe, the dollar was roughly flat on the day.

The crunch now will be US data over the next few weeks. US data on Wednesday supported Yellen’s guarded optimism, with private employers hiring steadily in October and a jump in new orders buoying activity in the services sector.

Influential non-farm payroll numbers are due on Friday.


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