Bank of England in £65bn scramble to avert financial crisis

Link: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/sep/28/bank-of-england-in-65bn-scramble-to-avert-financial-crisis

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The Bank of England has been forced into emergency action to halt a run on Britain’s pension funds after the impact of Kwasi Kwarteng’s ill-received mini budget prompted fears of a 2008-style financial crisis.

Threadneedle Street said the fallout from a dramatic rise in government borrowing costs since the chancellor’s statement had left it with no choice but to intervene to protect the UK’s financial system.

City sources said the surprise move, less than a week after Kwarteng’s unfunded tax giveaways, was needed to halt a “doom loop” in the bond markets that risked draining pension funds of cash and leaving them at risk of insolvency.

….

Interest rates on government bonds, or gilts, have risen sharply since the chancellor’s £45bn package of tax cuts – making it punitively expensive for thousands of pensions funds to fund their hedging activities.

Officials in the Financial Services Group of the Treasury were at an away day – said to have been held at the Oval cricket ground in London – on Wednesday, but returned to their desks that afternoon. A source said they were not working on the response to the Bank of England’s announcement.

The Bank’s action helped provide Kwarteng with some respite from the financial markets after three days of turmoil that has seen sterling hit its lowest ever level against the dollar, strong criticism of the mini-budget from the International Monetary Fund, about 1,000 mortgage products pulled and interest rates on UK government bonds hit their highest level since 2008. Bond yields fell while the pound recovered in the currency markets after Threadneedle Street’s announcement.

Author(s): Larry Elliott, Pippa Crerar and Richard Partington

Publication Date: 28 Sep 2022

Publication Site: Guardian

Pension funds crisis forces £65bn bailout by Bank

Link: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2022/09/28/pension-funds-crisis-forces-65bn-bailout-bank/

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Britain’s pension funds were on Wednesday at the centre of the financial crisis sparked by the mini-budget forcing the Bank of England to launch a £65 billion emergency bailout

The Bank warned of a “material risk to UK financial stability” and stepped in to buy long-term gilts, as plunging markets for UK debt sent borrowing costs spiralling and forced pension funds to dump their assets. Economists compared the crisis to the run of withdrawals that led to the collapse of Northern Rock in the financial crisis. 

However, the move by Governor Andrew Bailey helped restore some calm to markets, and pensions experts said retirement pots were not under threat. Nevertheless, worries that Mr Kwarteng’s radical mini-Budget will trigger further shocks for investors in gilts wiped billions of pounds off the stock market value of Britain’s biggest pension funds.

….

The Bank hopes to halt a domino effect in the City by temporarily suspending plans to offload £80bn of gilts held on its balance sheet. Instead for 13 days it will revert to buying them at a rate of £5bn per day using newly created money in a process known as quantitative easing.

The measures sparked a sharp rally in the market for the 30-year gilts that pension funds had been forced to sell. The cost of such borrowing fell by more than 1 percentage point, a significant downward move. Meanwhile the pound fell initially after the Bank’s announcement on fears of further inflation but recovered to finish roughly flat at nearly $1.09 against the dollar.

Author(s):

Tim Wallace
and
Ben Riley-Smith

Publication Date: 28 Sept 2022

Publication Site: UK Telegraph

Transition to a High Interest Rate Environment: Preparing for Uncertainty

Link: https://www.soa.org/globalassets/assets/Files/Research/Projects/research-2015-rising-interest-rate.pdf

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Interest rates cycle over long periods of time. The journey tends to be unpredictable, full of
unexpected twists and turns. This project focuses on the impact of interest rate volatility on life
insurance products. As usual, it brought up more questions than it answered. It points out the
importance of stress testing for a specific block of business and the risk of relying on industry
rules of thumb. Understanding the nuances of models could make the difference between safe
navigation of a stressed environment and a default. Proactive and resilient practices should
increase the odds of success.


Hyman Minsky had it right—stability leads to instability. We live in an era where monetary
policies of central banks steer free markets in an effort to soften the business cycle. Rates have
been low for over 20 years in Japan, reshaping the global economy.

The primary goal of this paper is to explore rising interest rates, but that is not possible without
considering that some rates could stabilize at low levels or even decrease. Following this path,
the paper will look at implications of interest rate changes for the life insurance industry, current
stress testing practices, and how a risk manager can proactively prepare for an uncertain future.
A paper published in 2014 focused on why rates could stay low, and some aspects of this paper
are similar (e.g., description of insurance products). This paper also uses a sample model office
to help practitioners look at their own exposures. It includes typical interest-sensitive insurance
products and how they might perform across various scenarios, as well as a survey to establish
current practices for how insurers are testing interest rate risk currently.

Author(s): Max Rudolph, Randy Jorgensen, Karen Rudolph

Publication Date: July 2015

Publication Site: SOA Research Institute

Tax Revenue in Most States Surpasses Pre-Pandemic Growth Trend

Link: https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/data-visualizations/2014/fiscal-50

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As the first quarter of 2022 came to an end and the United States passed the two-year anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, total state tax revenue was at its highest level since just before its historic decline in early 2020. Collections were 18.1% greater than those for the final quarter of 2019, after adjusting for inflation and averaging across four quarters to smooth seasonal fluctuations. Only Wyoming and North Dakota had not taken in enough revenue to surpass their pre-pandemic levels.

Nationwide and in 31 states as of the end of the first quarter of 2022, cumulative tax receipts since the pandemic’s start, adjusted for inflation, were even higher than they would have been if pre-COVID growth trends had continued—despite fallout from the pandemic and a two-month recession. According to Pew estimates, Idaho led all states, with 16% more cumulative tax revenue than it would have collected under its pre-pandemic growth rate. New Mexico was second at 15.5% above the trend. Nationally, combined tax revenue at the end of the first quarter of 2022 was 3% above estimates of what might have been collected had the pandemic not occurred.

However, estimates also show that cumulative tax revenue fell short of its pre-COVID growth trend in slightly more than a third of states since the pandemic’s onset, and most other states’ recoveries largely followed historical trends.

Looking at cumulative totals since the start of the pandemic offers a way to identify states in which tax revenue has over- or underperformed since January 2020, based on pre-COVID trends. This approach also provides a different view of the strength of collections from the often-astonishing quarterly and annual percentage increases that were skewed by this particularly volatile period. For each of the nine quarters from Jan. 1, 2020 to March 31, 2022, Pew calculated the difference between actual tax revenue and estimates of how much each state would have collected had revenue grown at its pre-pandemic, five-year average annual growth rate.

Author(s): Melissa Maynard

Publication Date: 7 Sept 2022

Publication Site: Pew Trusts

What are the Implications of Long COVID for Employment and Health Coverage?

Link: https://www.kff.org/policy-watch/what-are-the-implications-of-long-covid-for-employment-and-health-coverage/

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Preliminary evidence suggests there may be significant implications for employment: Surveys show that among adults with long COVID who worked prior to infection, over half are out of work or working fewer hours (Figure 2). Many conditions associated with long COVID—such as malaise, fatigue, or the inability to concentrate—limit people’s ability to work, even if they have jobs that allow for remote work and other accommodations. Two surveys of people with long COVID who had worked prior to infection showed that between 22% and 27% of those workers were out of work after getting long COVID. In comparison, among all working-age adults in 2019, only 7% were out of work. Given the sheer number of working age adults with long COVID, the employment implications may be profound and are likely to affect more people over time. One study estimates that long COVID already accounts for 15 percent of unfilled jobs.

Author(s): Alice Burns

Publication Date: 1 Aug 2022

Publication Site: KFF

Wharton professor Jeremy Siegel says Jerome Powell is making one of the biggest policy mistakes in the Fed’s 110-year history, and it could lead to a major recession

Link: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/wharton-professor-jeremy-siegel-says-191800487.html

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The Wharton professor Jeremy Siegel has a big issue with the Federal Reserve’s aggressive interest-rate hikes in its bid to tame inflation, and he’s worried that the central bank is making the biggest mistake in its history and may provoke a steep recession.

Siegel said inflation is starting to come down significantly, but the Fed is still moving forward with its rate hikes.

He said it could be “one of the biggest policy mistakes in the 110-year history of the Fed, by staying so easy when everything was booming.”

…..

“I think the Fed is just way too tight. They’re making exactly the same mistake on the other side that they made a year ago,” Siegel added.

To Siegel’s point, the Fed has had a lousy record of accurately forecasting where it expects interest rates to be just a few months into the future.

….

“I am very upset. It’s like a pendulum. They were way too easy through 2020 and 2021, and now ‘we’re going to be real tough guys until we crush the economy,'” Siegel said of the Fed.

Siegel expects the Fed to “eventually see the light” as none of their recent predictions are likely to come true.

“I think they’re going to be forced to lower the rates much more rapidly than they think,” Siegel said, a move that could set up stocks for a potential recovery from their ongoing decline.

Author(s): Matthew Fox

Publication Date: 25 Sept 2022

Publication Site: Yahoo Finance

Dot Plot Show Fed Anticipates More Hikes in 2023 to 4.50 Percent

Link: https://mishtalk.com/economics/dot-plot-show-fed-anticipates-more-hikes-in-2023-to-4-50-percent

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Hikes Come Hell or High Water? 

  • The Fed participants have a median expectation of 4.25 to 4.50 percent for the end of 2022
  • That’s another 1.25 percentage points more this year.
  • The Fed then anticipates one more hike in 2023 to 4.50 to 4.75 percent.

I have to admit that a year ago I did not foresee this. But here we are. 

The key question is not where we’ve been but where we are headed. I Highly doubt the Fed hikes another 1.25 percentage points this year or gets anywhere close to 4.50 to 4.75 percent in 2023.

Author(s): Mike Shedlock

Publication Date: 21 Sept 2022

Publication Site: Mish Talk