The Big Taper starts one central bank at a time. But you gotta keep the markets from swooning with a bit of welcome delusion.
The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) today announced that it voted unanimously to maintain its policy rate at 0.1%. But in terms of its asset purchases, it took the trail the Bank of Canada blazed last November and then widened in April: tapering.
The BoE announced that the blistering pace of its asset purchases would be “slowed somewhat” – tapering the bond purchases from £4.4 billion a week to £3.4 billion a week – but that this tapering was an “operational decision” that “should not be interpreted as a change in the stance of monetary policy.”
This “is not a tapering decision,” emphasized BoE governor Andrew Bailey during the press conference. The reason this tapering is not “a tapering decision,” he said, is because the BoE left its target for the final level of QE assets unchanged.
Unlike the Fed, the BoE doesn’t have an open-ended QE, but had set a target of bringing its holdings of UK government bonds to £875 billion and its holdings of corporate bonds to £20 billion, for a combined target of £895 billion. And at the meeting, the BoE didn’t change these “fixed amounts,” as Bailey put it.
Obviously, denying that tapering is tapering was designed to mollify the markets with a welcome dose of delusion, and it worked: the UK’s stock index FTSE 100 rose 0.5% for the day.
However, when the members voted on maintaining the target of £895 billion, it wasn’t unanimous, with eight members voting for maintaining it, and one member, outgoing chief economist Andy Haldane, voting to lower it by £50 billion, to £845 billion.
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