Market pricing would suggest investors are anticipating a prolonged period in which inflation overshoots the Bank of England’s (BoE) inflation target. The BoE asserts any pickup in inflation is likely to be temporary. As market expectations and official inflation forecasts fall further out of sync, the reality that emerges will have significant implications for holders of nominal and inflation-linked bonds alike.
The BoE’s rate-setting committee, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), has been reluctant to increase official rates in the face of higher inflation, owing to what it considers to be temporary factors. And, for now, it can point to public expectations for UK inflation being relatively well contained. This is reminiscent of 2011, when the BoE “looked through” price rises at a time when commodity prices were soaring and value-added tax was being increased. Inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, peaked above 5% that year.
Holders of nominal bonds need to be certain that the current increase in inflation is being driven by temporary factors, as the MPC asserts. If the BoE’s assessment is flawed, its commitment to low inflation will be questioned for the second time in recent history. This would arguably have serious implications for holders of nominal bonds, more so than owners Stof inflation-linked assets.
David Hooker – Insight, a BNY Mellon company