BoE's Haldane sees faint echo of 1970s in inflation spiral risk

FILE PHOTO: The Chief Economist of the Bank of England, Andy Haldane, listens from the audience at an event at the Bank of England in the City of London, London, Britain April 27, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) -Bank of England Chief Economist Andy Haldane has warned there is a chance that cost pressures faced by British companies lead to high prices that become embedded in pay demands, in an echo of inflationary wage-price spirals of previous decades.

Haldane, who leaves the Monetary Policy Committee in June, has previously warned of an inflationary “tiger” prowling as Britain’s economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this month he cast a lone vote to reduce the scale of the BoE’s bond-buying stimulus.

“There’s again a chance that those price pressures could get embedded in pay packets and then we have something closer – not on the same scale remotely – but something closer to the sort of ‘wagey-pricey’ spiral that we’ve seen at times in the past, the Seventies and Eighties,” Haldane said in an online interview here with the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation.

On Thursday, external MPC member Gertjan Vlieghe said comparisons with the 1970s were flawed.

Most other rate-setters are more relaxed about the outlook for inflation than Haldane, and they stress that the coming rise in inflation is likely to be temporary.

The BoE forecasts headline consumer price inflation will exceed its 2% target and touch 2.5% by the end of the year due to a range of one-off effects related to the pandemic. But it thinks price pressures will be muted in the longer-term, reflecting a return of subdued wage growth that was present before the pandemic.

Earlier on Friday U.S. bank Citi and polling company YouGov said public inflation expectations for the year ahead had cooled slightly this month to 2.7%, down from 2.8% in April.

“As yet, the improving cyclical outlook doesn’t seem to have boosted expectations,” economists from Citi said. “Household inflation expectations remain well anchored in our view. Upside risks that had been evident earlier in the pandemic now appear to have eased,” they added.

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