If Mark Carney has proved anything in his tenure at the Bank of England, it’s that ‘forward guidance’ is a load of baloney.
When Carney took over our central bank back in 2013, it was printing money (AKA quantitative easing). But markets were feeling tetchy about this money printing coming to an end.
To calm nerves, Carney promised low, low interest rates as far as the eye could see. The Bank called this ‘forward guidance’.
You may have heard this term before. You might even listen to it. Today, I’m going to show you why you should never, ever do that.
Let’s start by seeing what happened to Carney’s promise of super-low interest rates for years to come.
That didn’t last long
Well, Carney’s promise worked a treat at first. When quantitative easing did end, everyone took it very well – after all, forward guidance meant loose policy would persist.
Many were foolhardy enough to go out and borrow to the hilt.
And why not? The Bank told them rates would stay low for, most were guessing, three or five years.
So what a surprise it was for many people, to learn that rates will be rising sooner than expected.
That’s right, the timetable has been brought forward! The Bank now promises that its lending rate will normalise at about 2.5%, and that this will be the ‘new norm’.
Hold on a second. What about that forward guidance?
Oh, don’t you worry about that, says the Bank of England. We’ll just change our guidance.
More baloney from the bank
Spare a thought for the poor suckers that have been hooked by this.
Figures released last week show that the people most at risk at Carney’s advice – today’s young, upwardly-mobile lot – have already taken a massive whack from his guidance.
According to the Office for National Statistics, 28-year-olds have been smashed, not only because they’re indebted and face rising interest rates, but because their salaries are in outright deflation too.
During the last four years, salaries for this age group have shrunk by an astounding 18%. How on earth can this turn out well?
There’s a fantastic amount of competition for jobs – especially in the unskilled sector – and zero hours contracts, competition from migration and a general lack of work-based skill are all dragging down wages.
And despite all the evidence that we’re building a Ponzi scheme of debt, the Bank of England continues to grandstand its own delusions.
Who are they fooling?
Young borrowers on a mortgage are probably paying something between 2% and 5% on their mortgage right now. As for other credit, even if you’re financially stable, it’s probably costing you around 10%.
Let’s say Carney can magically maintain the 2.5% rate target – that’s up from 0.5% today.
Many borrowers think that, because the central bank rate has gone up 2%, so will the rate of interest they pay on borrowings.
Wrong. Both mortgages and unsecured rates could double. And frankly, if the financial markets hit the skids again, borrowers’ rates could go up considerably more.
Worse, if the pound hits the skids, or inflation ignites and the central bank needs to take affirmative action, things could get even bleaker.
The central bank can’t control an economy and therefore doesn’t hold absolute power of interest rates. They certainly don’t have the capacity to give meaningful forward guidance.
What’s the point then?
Forward guidance is a bit like listening to the forecast of how well a die-hard football fan’s team will do this year. It’s really a forecast of where the Bank of England would like the economy to be.
And that’s why you should never, ever listen to it.
What they’re doing is continuing to lull the over-borrowed into a false sense of security. The truth is, forward guidance cannot work.
Nobody can divine the future – least of all the Bank of England.
Nobody knows how high rates will have to go. Nor indeed, the timing.
If I were a borrower (which I’m not), I’d be using current low rates to pay down debt. I would not be doing what the Bank of England wants you to do – that is keep building debt on the basis that low rates are the new norm.
The fact is, there is no ‘new norm’. Just a new lot of central bankers making implausible forecasts about a future they know nothing about.
Let’s enjoy the good times while they last.