Bank of England Governor Warns of Inflation Risks Amid Israel-Hamas Conflict
Potential Impact on Energy Markets
The Governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, expressed concerns on Thursday about the ongoing Israel-Hamas war and its potential implications for inflation. Bailey highlighted the significant risk posed to energy markets, which could lead to a resurgence in price rises. Despite the current absence of a marked increase in energy prices, Bailey acknowledged that the conflict presents a risk going forward.
Fluctuating Oil Prices
The conflict in the Middle East has caused oil prices to fluctuate in recent weeks. Investors are closely monitoring the situation, as there are concerns that the fighting could escalate into a wider conflict in the energy-rich region. The World Bank issued a warning, stating that crude oil prices could surpass $150 a barrel if the conflict intensifies. As of Thursday 3:30 p.m. London time, Brent crude was trading slightly above 1% at $85.65 a barrel.
Central Bank Response
If energy prices were to rise significantly, the Bank of England would respond according to the broader economic circumstances and the expected duration of the price increases. The central bank has been committed to reducing inflation, ending a series of 14 consecutive interest rate hikes in September after inflation fell below expectations. While interest rates were held steady in the most recent decision, monetary policy will need to remain tight for an extended period of time.
The Monetary Policy Committee voted 6-3 in favor of maintaining the main Bank rate at 5.25%, with three members advocating for another 25-basis point hike to 5.5%. Governor Bailey emphasized the need to keep interest rates in restrictive territory for a considerable period. With U.K. inflation at 6.7% in September and expectations for it to remain elevated in the coming quarters, discussions about reducing interest rates are premature. The Bank of England projects that the consumer price index will average around 4.75% in Q4 2023, before gradually decreasing to approximately 4.5% and 3.75% in Q1 2024 and Q2 2024, respectively.