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UK economy: why the Bank of England is now more upbeat than the IMF

The bank has set hares running by forecasting actual growth of the UK economy in 2023, while most other forecasters are more downbeat.

The Bank of England has changed its mind about the prospects for the UK economy. Having been predicting a recession in 2023 as recently as February, its latest May report is expecting a soft landing from the bout of high inflation and a year of interest rate hikes.

One reason is that global demand for goods and services is expected to be higher. The central bank now expects weak GDP growth of 0.25% in 2023 compared to a predicted 0.5% contraction in the previous report, and thinks growth will be 0.75% in both 2024 and 2025. It said:

Growth over much of the forecast period will be materially stronger than in the February report. This reflects stronger global growth, lower energy prices, the fiscal support in the spring budget, and the possibility of lower precautionary saving by households than previously assumed in turn related to a lower risk of job loss …

This is quite a different picture to the one depicted by the IMF (International Monetary Fund) in April. The IMF said UK GDP would fall 0.3% in 2023 but then rebound to 1% in 2024.

Its reasons for being more pessimistic are that the UK was heavily exposed to the recent global shock in energy prices, its banks are vulnerable to the crisis engulfing the US, interest rates are high and the public finances are somewhat precarious.

Even the recent efforts by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to revitalise the economy, such as encouraging business investment and simplifying international trade, were not met with enthusiasm by IMF economists. The chancellor was left vowing that the UK economy will “prove the IMF wrong”.

The difference between these two sets of forecasts is striking. The question then becomes, is the Bank of England too optimistic about the future UK economic outlook or is the IMF painting too gloomy a picture?

Understanding the difference

The IMF has been one of the most pessimistic forecasters about the UK economy of late. As the chancellor said during his spring budget, “our IMF growth forecasts have been upgraded by more than any other G7 country”. Indeed, even the IMF’s April forecast is a revision upwards from the 0.6% contraction for 2023 that it was fearing back in January, bringing it closer in line with the 0.2% contraction that the government’s Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predicted at the time of the budget.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is determined to prove the IMF wrong. Thomas Crych/Alamy

This apparent lag in the IMF forecasts may be linked to how often it updates its economic models. The Bank of England and OBR do this routinely as new data becomes available, ensuring that the projections adapt more quickly to changes in the underlying economic signals. In forecasting, data revisions play an important role in updates. For instance, the OBR updated its assessment of the public finances in late April on the back of new data about the spending deficit.

In contrast, global institutions like the IMF and OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) conduct their reassessments much less frequently (usually twice a year). This means that institutional forecasters have less chance to update their projections and that when they do so, they’re usually a few months behind the curve.

What next

Be that as it may, is the Bank of England is likely to be right? On the prospect of increased household spending, the bank is seeing consumers dipping into their COVID savings because they’re feeling more secure in their jobs at a time when the redundancy rate has dipped sharply from pandemic levels.

Household savings ratio 2000-22

Graph showing household savings ratio over time
The data is seasonally adjusted. Office for National Statistics

I would certainly agree that this will give a decent boost to the UK economy if the trend continues. The risk is that unemployment may start rising again and consumer confidence will tank. This would probably cause people to hold on to their savings and essentially shut down this growth channel.

As for interest rates, the latest Bank of England report sees the base rate peaking at 4.75% in the final quarter of 2023 and then coming down to around 3.5% by 2026. With the base rate already now at 4.5%, this means the bank is signalling that the hiking cycle is almost over.

We know that households and firms base their spending decisions not only on current interest rates but also on this “forward guidance”. So an expectation of lower rates might indeed increase spending and investment, as well as having a positive effect on the housing market, which currently seems to be stabilising after a few months in decline. However, the latest bank forecast is also that interest rates will come down more slowly than before, so this might actually weaken spending and investment.

Interest rate projections (UK, US, eurozone)

Graph showing likely interest rate movement in UK, eurozone and US
Bloomberg Finance and Bank of England calculations

Then there is inflation. The bank expects inflation to fall sharply this year and get back below the 2% target in 2024, which is good news. Nonetheless, the risks of higher inflation remains in the form of firms passing on past energy hikes to their customers via higher prices. There could well be more of this to come, so it could be that the bank is too optimistic here.

If so, interest rates will probably have to stay higher and the economy will have a harder time than the bank currently thinks. So while the bank is very likely a better judge of the UK economy than the IMF, there are still numerous reasons why it could be wrong on this occasion.

Luciano Rispoli does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Von Der Leyen Speech Suggests Russia Dropped Nuke On Hiroshima 

Von Der Leyen Speech Suggests Russia Dropped Nuke On Hiroshima 

Von der Leyen just said what?…

This past Wednesday, President of the European…



Von Der Leyen Speech Suggests Russia Dropped Nuke On Hiroshima 

Von der Leyen just said what?...

This past Wednesday, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen delivered a speech before the 2023 Atlantic Council Awards in New York, where she sounded the alarm over the specter of nuclear war centered on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. But while invoking remembrance of the some 78,000 civilians killed instantly by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima at the end of WWII, she said her warning comes "especially at a time when Russia threatens to use nuclear weapons once again". She  actually framed the atomic atrocity in a way that made it sound like the Russians did it. Watch:

There was not one single acknowledgement in Von der Leyen's speech that it was in fact the United States which incinerated and maimed hundreds of thousands when it dropped no less that two atomic bombs on Japanese cities.

Here were her precise words, according to an Atlantic Council transcript...

You, dear Prime Minister, showed me the meaning of this proverb during the G7 summit in Japan last year. You brought us to your hometown of Hiroshima, the place where you have your roots and which has deeply shaped your life and leadership. Many of your relatives lost their life when the atomic bomb razed Hiroshima to the ground. You have grown up with the stories of the survivors. And you wanted us to listen to the same stories, to face the past, and learn something about the future.

It was a sobering start to the G7, and one that I will not forget, especially at a time when Russia threatens to use nuclear weapons once again. It is heinous. It is dangerous. And in the shadow of Hiroshima, it is unforgivable

The above video of that segment of the speech gives a better idea of the subtle way she closely associated in her rhetoric the words "once again" with the phrase "shadow of Hiroshima" while focusing on what Russia is doing, to make it sound like it was Moscow behind the past atrocities.

Via dpa

Russian media not only picked up on the woefully misleading comments, but the Kremlin issued a formal rebuke of Von der Leyen's speech as well:

In response to von der Leynen's remarks, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused the European Commission president of making "no mention whatsoever of the US and its executioners who dropped the bombs on populated Japanese cities."

Zakharova responded on social media, arguing that von der Leyen's assertions on Moscow's supposed intentions to employ nuclear weapons "is despicable and dangerous" and "lies."

Some Russian embassies in various parts of the globe also highlighted the speech on social media, denouncing the "empire of lies" and those Western leaders issuing 'shameful' propaganda and historical revisionism.

Tyler Durden Sun, 09/24/2023 - 13:15

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Saudi Arabia Sentences Schoolgirl To 18 Years In Prison Over Tweets

Saudi Arabia Sentences Schoolgirl To 18 Years In Prison Over Tweets

Via Middle East Eye,

Saudi Arabia has sentenced a secondary schoolgirl…



Saudi Arabia Sentences Schoolgirl To 18 Years In Prison Over Tweets

Via Middle East Eye,

Saudi Arabia has sentenced a secondary schoolgirl to 18 years in jail and a travel ban for posting tweets in support of political prisoners, according to a rights group.

On Friday, ALQST rights group, which documents human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, revealed that the Saudi Specialised Criminal Court handed out the sentence in August to 18-year-old Manal al-Gafiri, who was only 17 at the time of her arrest.

Via Reuters

The Saudi judiciary, under the de facto rule of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has issued several extreme prison sentences over cyber activism and the use of social media for criticising the government.

They include the recent death penalty against Mohammed al-Ghamdi, a retired teacher, for comments made on Twitter and YouTube, and the 34-year sentence of Leeds University doctoral candidate Salma al-Shehab over tweets last year.

The crown prince confirmed Ghamdi's sentence during a wide-ranging interview with Fox News on Wednesday. He blamed it on "bad laws" that he cannot change

"We are not happy with that. We are ashamed of that. But [under] the jury system, you have to follow the laws, and I cannot tell a judge [to] do that and ignore the law, because... that's against the rule of law," he said.

Saudi human rights defenders and lawyers, however, disputed Mohammed bin Salman's allegations and said the crackdown on social media users is correlated with his ascent to power and the introduction of new judicial bodies that have since overseen a crackdown on his critics. 

"He is able, with one word or the stroke of a pen, in seconds, to change the laws if he wants," Taha al-Hajji, a Saudi lawyer and legal consultant with the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights, told Middle East Eye this week.

According to Joey Shea, Saudi Arabia researcher at Human Rights Watch, Ghamdi was sentenced under a counterterrorism law passed in 2017, shortly after Mohammed bin Salman became crown prince. The law has been criticised for its broad definition of terrorism.

Similarly, two new bodies - the Presidency of State Security and the Public Prosecution Office - were established by royal decrees in the same year.

Rights groups have said that the 2017 overhaul of the kingdom's security apparatus has significantly enabled the repression of Saudi opposition voices, including those of women rights defenders and opposition activists. 

"These violations are new under MBS, and it's ridiculous that he is blaming this on the prosecution when he and senior Saudi authorities wield so much power over the prosecution services and the political apparatus more broadly," Shea said, using a common term for the prince.

Tyler Durden Sun, 09/24/2023 - 11:30

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Biden To Join UAW Picket Line As Strike Expands, Good Luck Getting Repairs

Biden To Join UAW Picket Line As Strike Expands, Good Luck Getting Repairs

Authored by Mike Shedlock via,

In a symbolic, photo-op…



Biden To Join UAW Picket Line As Strike Expands, Good Luck Getting Repairs

Authored by Mike Shedlock via,

In a symbolic, photo-op gesture to win union votes, Biden will head to Michigan for a token visit.

Biden to Walk the Picket Line

Taking Sides

CNN had some Interesting comments on Biden Talking Sides.

Jeremi Suri, a presidential historian and professor at University of Texas at Austin, said he doesn’t believe any president has ever visited a picket line during a strike.

Presidents, including Biden, have previously declined to wade into union disputes to avoid the perception of taking sides on issues where the negotiating parties are often engaged in litigation.

On September 15, the day the strike started, Biden said that the automakers “should go further to ensure record corporate profits mean record contracts for the UAW.”

Some Democratic politicians have been urging Biden to do more. California Rep. Ro Khanna on Monday told CNN’s Vanessa Yurkevich that Biden and other Democrats should join him on the picket line.

“I’d love to see the president out here,” he said, arguing the Democratic Party needs to demonstrate it’s “the party of the working class.”

UAW Announces New Strike Locations

As the strike enters a second week, UAW Announces New Strike Locations

UAW President Shawn Fain called for union members to strike at noon ET Friday at 38 General Motors and Stellantis facilities across 20 states. He said the strike call covers all of GM and Stellantis’ parts distribution facilities.

The strike call notably excludes Ford, the third member of Detroit’s Big Three, suggesting the UAW is more satisfied with the progress it has made on a new contract with that company.

General Motors plants being told to strike are in Pontiac, Belleville, Ypsilanti, Burton, Swartz Creek and Lansing, Michigan; West Chester, Ohio; Aurora, Colorado; Hudson, Wisconsin; Bolingbrook, Illinois; Reno, Nevada; Rancho Cucamonga, California; Roanoke, Texas; Martinsburg, West Virginia; Brandon, Mississippi; Charlotte, North Carolina; Memphis, Tennessee; and Lang Horne, Pennsylvania.

The Stellantis facilities going on strike are in Marysville, Center Line, Warren, Auburn Hills, Romulus and Streetsboro, Michigan; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Plymouth, Minnesota; Commerce City, Colorado; Naperville, Illinois; Ontario, California; Beaverton, Oregon; Morrow, Georgia; Winchester, Virginia; Carrollton, Texas; Tappan, New York; and Mansfield, Massachusetts.

Contract Negotiations Are Not Close

Good Luck Getting Repairs

Party of the Working Cass, Really?

Let’s discuss the nonsensical notion that Democrats are the party of the “working class”.

Unnecessary stimulus, reckless expansion of social services, student debt cancellation, eviction moratoriums, earned income credits, immigration policy, and forcing higher prices for all, to benefit the few, are geared towards the “unworking class”.

On top of it, Biden wants to take away your gas stove, end charter schools to protect incompetent union teachers, and force you into an EV that you do not want and for which infrastructure is not in place.

All of this increases inflation across the board as do sanctions and clean energy madness.

Exploring the Working Class Idea

If you don’t work and have no income, Biden may make your healthcare cheaper. If you do work, he seeks to take your healthcare options away.

If you want to pay higher prices for cars, give up your gas stove, be forced into an EV, subsidize wind energy then pay more for electricity on top of it, you have a clear choice. If you support those efforts, by all means, please join him on the picket line for a token photo-op (not that you will be able to get within miles for the staged charade).

But if you can think at all, you understand Biden does not support the working class, he supports the unworking class.

Tyler Durden Sun, 09/24/2023 - 10:30

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