UK Money Supply surges as Unsecured Credit Collapses

by Shaun Richards

Today brings the UK monetary situation into focus and to say it is fast moving is an understatement. Let me illustrate in terms of QE or Quantitative Easing where the current rate of purchases is £13.5 billion a week and the total by my maths is now £507 billion. This means we have seen an extra £72 billion in this Covid-19 pandemic phase. Looking at it from a money supply point of view means that in theory an extra £72 billion has been added. We have seen before that in practice QE does not always flow into the money supply data as the theory tells us but I also note that the ECB figures we looked at earlier this week were responding to its QE actions.

Next comes the other programmes where again the heat is on. The Covid Corporate Financing Facility has bought some £15.9 billion of Commercial Paper and in return supplied liquidity. Next comes the Corporate Bond programme which has bought around £2 billion so far. They do not provide much detail on the Corporate Bond purchases to avoid me pointing out that for example they are buying Apple and Maersk. Last on the list is the new version of the Term Funding Scheme supplying liquidity to banks at 0.1% and it claims to have supported £8.2 billion of new loans.

So we awash with liquidity if not actual cash. Now let us look at the impact until the end of March as we look at this morning’s data.

Money Supply

I think we can say we see an impact here! The emphasis is mine.

The amount of money deposited with, and borrowed from, banks and building societies by private sector companies and households overall rose very strongly in March. Sterling money holdings by households, non-financial businesses (PNFCs) and non-intermediating financial companies (NIOFCs), known as M4ex, rose by £57.4 billion in March, a series high and far above its previous six-month average of £9.0 billion. Sterling borrowing from banks (M4Lex) rose by £55.3 billion, also a series high and up from its previous six-month average of £5.1 billion.

Or as DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince would say.

Boom! shake-shake-shake the room
Boom! shake-shake-shake the room
Boom! shake-shake-shake the room
Tic-tic-tic-tic Boom!
Well yo are why’all ready for me yet
(pump it up prince)

Or more prosaically,

The strength in money was broad based across sectors, with the largest increases since these series began for households (first published in 1963), PNFCs (1963) and NIOFCs (1998). (  non-financial businesses (PNFCs) and non-intermediating financial companies (NIOFCs))

If we switch to the money supply implications then the 2.4% rise in March was as much as not so long ago we were seeing in a year. The annual growth rate of 7.4% is the highest we have seen for some time and next month we will break the numbers posted by the Sledgehammer QE effect in the autumn of 2016 and the spring of 2017. Actually I think we will break the all-time record for M4 anyway ( yes for my sins I still recall the £M3 days) but that is for another day.

Consumer Credit

There are some numbers here which in the previous regime would be too much for the morning espresso of Governor Carney and would have him summoning a flunkey from the Bank of England bar to fetch him his favourite Martini as he would be both shaken and stirred,

The weak net flows of consumer credit meant that the annual growth rate fell to 3.7% in March, lowest since June 2013. Within this, the annual growth rate of credit card lending fell to -0.3%, the first negative annual growth since the series began. The annual growth rate of other loans and advances fell to 5.6%.

The first Governor of the Bank of England to preside over negative annual credit card growth. I guess he and the new Governor Andrew Bailey will be playing a game of pass the parcel with that one!

This is a similar effect to what we saw in the credit crunch with households battening down the hatches by repaying credit with this time around settling your credit card in the van.

Households repaid £3.8 billion of consumer credit, on net, in March, the largest net repayment since the series began . Within this, credit cards accounted for £2.4 billion of net repayments and other loans and advances accounted for £1.5 billion.

Indeed the net figures may not do the gross data full justice.

This very weak net lending reflected a larger fall in new borrowing that was partially offset by slightly lower repayments. Gross lending was £5.4 billion weaker than February, while repayments were £1.3 billion lower.

Business Lending

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This is something of a bugbear of mine as back in the summer of 2012 we were promised the the Funding for Lending Scheme would boost it, especially for smaller businesses. How is that going?

Within this, the growth rate of borrowing by large businesses increased sharply, to 11.8%, and growth by SMEs rose to 1.2%, from 0.9% in February.

Looking at the numbers for smaller businesses we are seeing two failures here. First the initial failure to get cash to them and second the conceptual failure over the past 8 years as the schemes to help them have recorded very little growth at best and sometimes none at all. In fact the situation has been so bad that the word counterfactual has been deployed which has two effects. For those that do not understand what it means it sounds impressive whilst leaving those that do mulling how giving £107 billion to the banks in the TFS had so little effect. Almost as if it was designed to do that.

Of course it is much easier to lend to larger businesses.

UK businesses’ deposits rose by £34.0 billion in March. Changes in deposits and loans were closely correlated across industries.

That bit is awkward. Did those that got it, not need it?

Mortgages

We open with a bit of all our yesterdays.

Mortgage borrowing picked up a little in March, with a net increase of £4.8 billion. The annual growth rate also rose a little, to 3.6%. Mortgage borrowing tends to lag approvals, however, so this strength is likely to reflect strength in approvals in previous months.

Then we get a bit more with the current reality.

In the mortgage market, evidence of a decline in housing market activity started to become apparent in March mortgage approval statistics, which fell by just over 20% (Chart 4). This was a broad based fall across reasons for applying for a mortgage. Approvals for house purchase fell by 24% to 56,200, their lowest level since March 2013; and approvals for remortgage fell 20% to 42,600, the fewest since August 2016. ‘Other’ approvals, which includes for withdrawing equity, fell back 17%, to 12,000.

Looking ahead with Gilt yields here we are likely to see more people look at a remortgage as my indicator for fixed-rate mortgage trends the five-year Gilt yield is a mere 0.1%. Of course there is also the issue of the market essentially being frozen.

Comment

Let me remind you that the broad money numbers are supposed to be a predictor of nominal GDP growth ( economic output) around two years ahead. So if we say we will be lucky to be back to where we were at the start of 2020 in two years time we would expect inflation of the order of 7% or so. Care is needed because the impulse these days is often seen in asset markets and is in my opinion a driver behind the stock market rally we have seen. That factor is why I argue to put house prices in consumer inflation measures in spite of the fact that for them “down, down” by Status Quo is more likely than Yazz’s “The only way is up” for this year. Although some seem to have spotted an alternative universe.

Nationwide said on Friday its measure of house prices rose by 0.7% in April from March and was 3.7% higher than a year earlier, stronger than forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists in both cases. ( Reuters)

Really?

Now let me look at another alternative universe or if this was a Riddick film the Underverse. You may need reminding that the official Bank of England Bank Rate is 0.1% as you read the numbers below.

Effective rates on interest bearing credit cards fell 14 basis points to 18.4%, whilst effective rates on personal loans fell 7 basis points to 6.8%.

Also the debacle at the Financial Conduct Authority which saw many overdraft rates double to around 40% is slowly being picked up in the data. Someone at the Bank of England must be torturing the series to keep the rate as low as 24% and please Governor Bailey who of course presided over the FCA at the time.