At the end of the previous week, the US stock markets experienced a boost as recent data revealed a significant slowdown in job growth in the past month compared to September. The unemployment rate also saw a slight increase, indicating a potential cooling in the job market. This official data can be seen as evidence that the Federal Reserve's interest rate hikes are starting to impact the economy.
As a result of this news, the pound surged from approximately 1.2230 to a peak around 1.24, and EURUSD followed suit, moving from about 1.06 to 1.0750.
In the UK, grocery inflation has decreased to single digits for the first time in 16 months, based on sector data. This development raises hopes that food prices will return to normal in the coming months after a prolonged period of sharp increases for households. The annual rate of price increases in supermarkets was 9.7% in the four weeks leading to October 29, as reported by research company Kantar on Tuesday. This was a drop from the 11% recorded in September and well below the all-time peak of 17.5% in March.
The cost of short-term borrowing for the UK government has dropped rapidly in comparison to other European countries today. This comes after the Bank of England's chief economist raised expectations of interest rate cuts. The yield on two-year UK gilts, which are sensitive to changes in interest rate expectations, decreased by eight basis points to 4.61%, its lowest level since June, outperforming comparable European economies. France, Germany, and Italy experienced only marginal changes in their short-term borrowing costs compared to the UK.
The Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority have unveiled proposals to integrate stablecoins, a type of digital token designed to mirror the value of traditional currencies, into the real economy as a payment option for goods and services. These proposals entail the BoE taking direct supervision of the entity behind the stablecoin and requiring payment systems using digital tokens to be fully backed by central bank deposits. Stablecoin issuers will also need to demonstrate their plans for managing redemptions, especially during stressful periods.
Concerns about the UK entering a recession this winter have grown, driven by signs that British households are cutting their spending as they save for the holiday season and deal with higher fuel costs. Two monthly reports on retail activity have indicated that shops and online retailers are struggling due to consumer budgets being squeezed by higher mortgage rates and the ongoing cost of living crisis. Inflation-adjusted sales were reported to be down in October by both the British Retail Consortium, the industry's lobbying group, and Barclays.
Federal Reserve policymakers, following their recent decision to maintain the policy rate, are now considering various factors including strong economic data, signs of a slowdown, and the impact of rising long-term bond yields as they assess whether further interest rate hikes are needed to combat inflation. The third-quarter U.S. economic growth, at an annualized rate of 4.9%, was described as a "strong performance" and is receiving close attention in the context of future policy decisions, as stated by Fed Governor Christopher Waller on Tuesday.