BoE’s Bailey says guidance is hazardous for central banks

FILE PHOTO: Bank of England press conference
FILE PHOTO: Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey in London, Britain February 25, 2019. Kirsty O'Connor/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

November 25, 2021

LONDON (Reuters) -Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said on Thursday that central banks took risks when they sought to provide guidance on what is likely to happen with interest rates during times of economic uncertainty.

Bailey, who has been accused by some investors of sending a wrong signal about the likelihood of a BoE rate hike earlier this month, told an event organised by the Cambridge Union that guidance was still a relatively new tool for central banks.

“Obviously, in a world which is much more uncertain as to whether things will happen, then it’s much more hazardous to give that guidance,” he said.

The BoE shocked financial markets on Nov. 4 when it kept Bank Rate on hold at its coronavirus pandemic low of 0.1%. Investors had read remarks made by Bailey in October as a signal that rates would rise at the BoE’s November meeting.

Bailey has said he was never explicit about when rates might rise and his comments on the need for action were conditional on risks to expectations about inflation which the central bank believes will approach 5% in the second quarter of 2022.

Speaking at Thursday’s event, Bailey said it had been relevant to state the BoE would not allow those inflation expectations to get out of control. “That’s not so much forward guidance as a reminder of where we are,” he said.

Bailey also said the difference between providing commentary on the state of the economy and what the central bank is likely to do with borrowing costs was hard to define.

“The boundary between a commentary and guidance is quite murky, actually, when you think about the words we use,” he said.

The BoE’s December monetary policy decision is due to be announced on Dec. 16.

(Reporting by William Schomberg; Editing by William Maclean and Jonathan Oatis)