Ben Chu: Bank of England boss, Mark Carney, may have to wield the big stick of QE if he is to win City support
"Don't fight the Fed" is one of a traditional axiom of bond traders. It means that if the US central bank wants interest rates to move in a certain direction, they ultimately will, so you'd better not get in the way. But "don't fight the Bank of England" does not have the same folk-wisdom status on trading floors. And that's the nub of the problem facing Mark Carney and his policy of forward guidance.
The new Governor says that Threadneedle Street will not even consider raising base rates from their historic lows of 0.5 per cent until the unemployment rate falls to 7 per cent (from 7.8 per cent at the moment). His guidance goes even further than this. As the Governor repeated yesterday in Nottingham, in his first public speech, hitting the 7 per cent target will not even necessarily activate a rise. It will merely be a "staging post" in the recovery.
Yet the traders in the City of London, apparently, don't believe it. The consensus is that the Bank will probably raise rates in mid-2015. Why? A variety of reasons. Some probably think inflation will surprise on the upside in the coming years, activating one of the Bank's guidance "knockouts".
Some think firms' productive capacity has been so gravely damaged in recent years that the recovery will result in rapid hiring of labour rather than the utilisation of their spare capacity. Others may think, as Mr Carney suggested yesterday, that UK base rates will move in sync with US rates.
But the point is traders just aren't convinced by Mr Carney's assertions that rates will not rise until 2016. It's sometimes said that the key to influence is to speak softly and carry a big stick. He may have to display his monetary stick – quantitative easing – more prominently if he wants bond traders to be as respectful of the Bank's determination as they are of that of the Federal Reserve.
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