Don’t cut interest rates Mr Carney – by John Redwood

Government and the Bank cannot control the level of the pound. The last time they tried to do this in the European Exchange Rate Mechanism it was a disaster, leading to a big devaluation and a recession. We do not want that again.

The Bank and government can, however, influence the level of the pound. In recent weeks the Bank has done its best to encourage devaluation, by talking of the likelihood of a decline, talking about the decline as it happens, and signalling still looser money and lower rates. These policies seem to be designed to drive the pound down further.

I do not have in mind an optimum level of sterling which we then need to hold. I do however think the decline we have seen should not be pushed further by official action or encouragement. We need a sense that the authorities think it has gone far enough. There should be doubt in market minds as to whether or not the authorities might buy pounds in the market. The Bank should not decide in advance to cut rates.

According to the press, and from reading the latest Bank statement, Mr Carney thinks there is a decline in confidence in property and consumer spending which warrants a strong monetary response by cutting rates and printing more cash. This week British Land sold its flagship store on Oxford Street for a remarkable £400 m, on the very low yield of 2.75%. At recent commercial property auctions property has sold well, above guide prices. In response to my consultation on this site several people wrote in to report lively business in residential property in their local areas. There are many people and institutions sitting on the sidelines with cash wanting to buy any bargains that the property funds might offer as they seek to meet redemptions.

Retail sales were remarkably strong in May and could have fallen off a bit in June and early July. However, employment levels are high, and real wages are rising, so there is no obvious reason to expect a medium term drop off in sales. The move from shop to web complicates the picture and needs to be allowed for when looking at individual store group sales.

The economic evidence suggests that the UK economy has just had a stimulus from monetary relaxation and the fall in the pound, which should boost the growth rate next year. It would be wrong of the Bank to take actions now that drive the pound much lower. It is possible to undermine confidence by ostensibly taking action to assist.



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