Finimize - 🇬🇧 The Bank of England does the math

Plus, everything you need to know for the week ahead |
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Hi Reader. Here’s a look at what you need to know for the week ahead and the things you might have missed last week.

The British Equation

The Bank of England (BoE) was the first major central bank to hike interest rates when inflation shot higher in late 2021. It’s still figuring out when to lower them.

The British Equation

🔍 The focus this week: The Great British rate cuts

This week could shed some light on where Britain’s interest rates are headed and when. The latest inflation figures will be released on Wednesday, and the BoE will deliver its interest rate announcement the next day.

That inflation data is expected to be good. Economists (including those at the BoE) expect the overall pace of price gains to have fallen in May to 2% – smack dab at the central bank’s target for the first time since July 2021. Problem is, it’s not expected to stay at those low levels. The BoE predicts inflation will accelerate in the second half of 2024, to reach an average of around 2.5%. What’s more, there have been some worrying signals in recent inflation updates. April’s round of numbers showed the country’s annual inflation rate was still higher than expected, though it did slow to 2.3% for the overall measure and to 3.9% for the core measure, which excludes the prices of more volatile stuff like food and energy.

So it makes sense if the central bank seems wary about chipping away at the high interest rates that it’s been using to slow the country’s speedy inflation. And that also explains why traders see virtually no chance that the Bank will lower rates this week from their current 16-year high. But that doesn’t mean the calculation is easy: economic data last week showed Britain’s economic recovery had ground to a halt in April and that its unemployment rate had unexpectedly risen to a 30-month high. Put differently, the UK economy is demonstrating a growing need for the kind of boost that comes from lower interest rates. That’s why traders expect the central bank to cut rates in September, and again in December.

📅 On the calendar

  • Monday: China industrial production and retail sales (May).
  • Tuesday: US retail sales (May), US industrial production (May).
  • Wednesday: Japan trade balance (May), UK inflation (May).
  • Thursday: China’s central bank one-year loan rate announcement, Bank of England interest rate announcement, eurozone consumer confidence (June). Earnings: Accenture.
  • Friday: Japan inflation (May), UK retail sales (May), global PMIs (June).

👀 What you might’ve missed last week

Global

  • The World Bank lifted its global growth forecast for this year.
  • “Catastrophe bond” issuance reached a record high in the past five months.


US

  • US inflation cooled by more than expected in May.
  • The Federal Reserve kept interest rates unchanged.


Europe

  • Britain’s economic recovery ground to a halt in April.

🤔 Why it matters

The World Bank boosted its 2024 global growth forecast slightly, bringing it to 2.6%. Most of the improvement stems from its rosier view of the US growth outlook, which it raised by almost a full percentage point to 2.5%. However, the group kept its 2025 global growth estimate steady at 2.7%, and warned that climate change, conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, and high debt levels will hurt poorer countries, where most people live.

Forecasters are expecting a rough hurricane season, prompting insurers to protect themselves by issuing more catastrophe bonds – securities that transfer some or all of the natural disaster risk to investors. Insurers issued 38% more “cat” bonds in the first five months of 2024 compared to the same period last year, hitting a record $11.7 billion. What’s more, the $4 billion issued in May alone represents the greatest volume of the bonds ever sold in a single month.

The annual pace of US inflation ticked down slightly last month to 3.3%, defying economist expectations for an unchanged reading. Core inflation, which strips out volatile food and energy items to give a better idea of underlying price pressures, fell by slightly more than forecast to 3.4% – a three-year low. While the report offers the Federal Reserve (the Fed) some hope that high interest rates are helping to bring inflation down toward its 2% target, officials will probably want to see a further fall before they start cutting borrowing costs.

Speaking of the Fed, the US central bank kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a two-decade high for a seventh straight meeting this week. And policymakers signaled that they now expect to cut rates just once this year – not the three times they were forecasting back in March. They now see four cuts in 2025, instead of three. The Fed also upped its inflation forecast slightly for 2024 but kept its economic growth projection unchanged.

As any Brit could tell you, April was unusually rainy in the UK. The month was one of the wettest on record, and that hit the retail and construction sectors so badly that the UK economy completely flatlined. In other words, it saw zero growth in April, and that big slowdown from March’s 0.4% expansion now has folks worrying that the rebound from last year’s recession may have lost all momentum.

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