Today is the first working day for many people within the world’s most developed financial markets centers after the festive holidays, and among predictions of interesting potential market movements for the year ahead and optimism relating to interesting new blockchain technology which is part of the revolutionary direction in finance at the moment, a nagging elephant in the room lurks.
That elephant in the room is inflation, that age-old consideration which, no matter how high the technology that powers the world’s financial system these days has become, is a metric that still remains one of the most important measures of economic circumstances.
As the markets begin to open across Europe today for the first time in a few days, many analysts are predicting further rises in inflation, which in the United Kingdom, one of the world’s largest financial markets economies and home to the most valuable major currency in the world – the Pound – has been at an 11 year high of 5.1% for a few weeks.
Today’s rather alarming predictions from Resolution Foundation, which is a government think tank, have demonstrated that inflation could rise to 6% in the United Kingdom, a rate which has already been reached in the United States. Should this happen, it would be the highest inflation Britain’s economy will have experienced since 1992.
Should this occur, the economy will likely be affected by a combination of stalled real wages and rising costs of services and everyday products, and if Resolution Foundation’s predictions are correct and a 6% rate of inflation occurs by April 2022, the average British household’s costs are likely to rise by approximately £1,200 which will be another woe to accompany the energy price rises and tax hikes that have been noticeable over recent months.
Resolution Foundation’s 11-page report which was published this morning explains that the beginning of the year is likely to be a period in which the pressure on living standards that many households are already facing could evolve in an environment in which price rises outstrip pay growth.
The think tank has branded the Spring of 2022 to be a period of a ‘broad-based cost of living catastrophe affecting the vast majority of households’
Looking forward a few years, it is possible that real wages could be £740 per year lower than they would have been if there had been no lockdowns or disruptions to the economy since March 2020.
Where does this leave interest rates?
So far, the Bank of England has not increased interest rates, despite that being a priority subject at the Bank of England meetings recently.
Perhaps this is because the Bank of England understands that when interest rates are increased, it potentially cripples the economy. The last time this was done in ernest was in 1991 when the interest rate was over 10% and mass home repossessions took place due to mortgage payment unaffordability.
The Bank of England has tried to stave that off so far, however the question remains as to how long businesses can swallow the cost of inflation and not be able to pass it on to their already cash-strapped customers.
Interestingly, the Pound is up against the US Dollar this morning at 1.34, showing that the currency markets are not fazed by this news.
The same applies to the Pound’s value against the Euro, which is now at 1.19. These increases in values by the Pound against its major counterparts occurred specifically as the news broke, which is interesting considering that the British economy could be in serious trouble this coming year.
Perhaps those with an analytical focus have noticed that the United States has been battling with even higher inflation for some time now yet it has not become a flagging economy to the extent that such a high rate of inflation has caused in the past… yet!
Given the uncertainty of the effect of these high levels of inflation in a modern world in which the financial economy is very different to how it was 30 years ago, the way it will be overcome is unknown. Perhaps comparisons with the Eurozone and the US have paved the way for a reasonably buoyant Pound which appears to have gone the opposite way to what would be expected on the arrival of such news.
Additionally, there has been no lockdown in England, whereas there has in Scotland and Wales, when many were expecting the British government to lock down the entire United Kingdom as a routine matter of course, which did not happen.
The hospitality businesses across England are about to welcome a deluge of residents of Wales and Scotland who have vowed to go across the border to celebrate New Year, giving that industry a much needed boost.
Perhaps 2022 will be a year of volatility and changing circumstances. Either way, this is a very interesting start and something of a white knuckle ride.