Monday, March 01, 2010

The Markets Vote Against Labour

There's not a whole lot left

The financial markets have traditionally been highly suspicious of Labour governments. For some unfathomable reason, they reckon that Labour governments spend too much, tax too much, borrow too much, and inflate too much.

Which is why NuLab's marriage to Prudence was so important. NuLab's vows to stick with Tory spending plans, not to increase taxes, and to limit borrowing, reassured the markets and kept them calm as Labour headed for victory in the 1997 election. Reassurance was further reinforced when Brown made the Bank of England independent  - his first significant act as Chancellor.

But that was then, and this is now. NuLab couldn't actually stand living with straight-laced Prudence, and before long the relationship was on the rocks. NuLab started staying out all night on the spending razzle, blowing vast amounts on champagne cocktails and exotic dancers. He ran up huge credit card bills. Poor Pru was left all on her own to fend off the bailiffs.

The markets have taken note, and they don't like it. They especially don't like the idea that Prudence may take NuLab back again, when they'd thought that nice Mr Cam was about to move in and sort out the credit cards.

Today we got a taste of what will happen if Labour somehow does get back. The weekend poll headlined "Gordon Brown on course to win election" put the skids under sterling and gilts in time-honoured fashion.

Since the polls turned against the Tories at the start of the year, sterling is down a further 5% against a basket of currencies, on top of the steep fall in 2007-08 (Bank of England effective exchange rate index). Against the dollar, it's down 8% this year.

And gilts have also sold off sharply. Since the start of the year, the famous 2.5% Consols have fallen by around 10%, which means an increase in their yield to over 5%. That's the highest they've been since the late 90s. On 10 year maturity gilts, HMG is having to pay nearly 1% more than the German government does on its debt.

What does this mean for us?

Weaker sterling means that our imports are more expensive, making all consumers poorer. Higher gilt yields mean that HMG's debt interest costs are increased, making all taxpayers poorer. So if you're a taxpaying consumer, the consequences are BAD and BAD.

And it's quite possible we ain't seen nothing yet. Despite the lurid poll headlines, I'm guessing the financial markets still reckon the Tories will get elected - as Boris points out today, that's certainly what the political betting punters think.

But what if it looked like Labour were actually going to do it? What would happen to sterling then? How high would gilt yields jump?

Back in 1992, the huge sigh of relief that greeted Major's unexpected win over the Welsh Windbag produced a 2% appreciation of sterling and around 0.5% off gilt yields. But those moves were restrained by the fact that at the time we were locked into the dreaded European Exchange Rate Mechanism, which had prevented a big sell-off ahead of the election. This time we are on our own.

Meanwhile, over at the TPA, Matt Sinclair has calculated the latest reading on the Misery Index (ie the inflation rate plus the unemployment rate). He finds we have just overtaken the Eurozone to become Europe's most miserable place. Fantastic.

What can you do?

Like we've said before, buy some of these:

PS Representation without taxation news - nobody can seriously be shocked to discover that all three main parties have been funded by non-dom tax dodgers. But it does underscore the old question of WTF we still have any unelected legislators? And WTF do they sit for life? Even banana-growing countries like, say, Belize don't have unelected legislators sitting for life.


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