Adam Posen may look a lot like the character Alan in the hit comedy “The Hangover,” but Posen lacks something that Alan has – a wolf pack! Earlier this week, it was revealed that Posen was a lone wolf in the most recent monetary policy committee (MPC) meeting in voting for an immediate increase in the Bank of England‘s (BOE) asset purchase program.
While the committee unanimously decided to keep interest rates at 0.50%, Posen broke ranks with the rest of the MPC by being the only member to vote to raise the BOE’s asset purchase program from 200 billion GBP to 250 billion GBP.
According to the lone wolf, inflation shouldn’t prevent the BOE from easing its monetary policy. Posen believes that there’s an extremely small chance that inflation expectations will continue to rise, and that the U.K.’s high inflation rate is only being bolstered up by temporary factors such as high energy costs. He concluded that since wage growth remains well-grounded, inflation should start to ease towards the central bank’s target of 2.0% once oil prices begin to settle.
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve probably heard it all before, if not from Posen, then from BOE Governor Mervyn King. The problem is, despite what Posen and King have been preaching for the past year or so, inflation has yet to show signs of weakening.
Inflation has been extremely stubborn and is still at 4.5%, a level that has not been surpassed since 2008. Making matters worse, there are still many market players out there that believe inflation will hit 5.0% later in the year before it begins to decline. If the BOE makes the mistake of loosening monetary policy at the wrong time, it could stoke price pressures and cause inflation to spiral out of control.
However, this isn’t to say that the rest of the MPC have completely rejected the idea of more quantitative easing. On the contrary, the minutes of the most recent meeting revealed that most of the members of the committee believe that some sort of quantitative easing may be necessary in the near future. In other words, the MPC appears to be willing but not yet quite ready to add more stimulus to the economy.
With GDP rising by only 0.2% in Q2 2011 and growth in the second half of the year expected to be significantly weaker, the central bank will need to do all it can to keep the economy from dipping. Clearly, the members of the MPC can sense this as well. As a matter of fact, they have already discussed possible courses of action, showing preference for expanding the asset purchase program over increasing interest rates.
Judging by the way the pound was sold off so violently after the release of the monetary policy meeting minutes, it seems as though the markets can already smell more quantitative easing in the air. It’s already on the BOE’s table, now it may just be a matter of time before the central bank takes a bite.
Adam Posen, there’s hope for your wolf pack yet!