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IMF warns UK about a possible 'housing bubble' and low productivity

Saturday, June 7th 2014 - 04:37 UTC
Full article 6 comments
The chancellor said the IMF was “right to warn the government that risks still remain” to the UK's economic recovery. The chancellor said the IMF was “right to warn the government that risks still remain” to the UK's economic recovery.
Ms Lagarde called on financial regulators to consider imposing limits on the number of low-deposit mortgages Ms Lagarde called on financial regulators to consider imposing limits on the number of low-deposit mortgages

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned the government that accelerating house prices and low productivity pose the greatest threat to the UK's economic recovery. Rising property values could leave households more vulnerable to income and interest rate shocks.

 It also called on the Bank of England to enact policy measures “early and gradually” to avoid a housing bubble. In April, the IMF said the UK economy would grow by 2.9% in 2014.

The Fund's annual health check of the UK economy found it has “rebounded strongly and growth is becoming more balanced” adding economic growth would “remain strong this year.”

It is a significant turnaround from last year when the IMF's chief economist Oliver Blanchard appeared to have a public falling out with the chancellor after he criticized the government's austerity policies.

This year IMF managing director Christine Lagarde admitted the Fund “got it wrong” in its assessment adding that while the UK's economic recovery began with consumer spending, it was now rebalancing towards an “investment-led recovery”.

Chancellor George Osborne said the IMF was “right to warn the government that risks still remain” to the UK's economic recovery.

Ms Lagarde called on financial regulators to consider imposing limits on the number of low-deposit mortgages a bank or building society can advance to borrowers, highlighting fears that some people may be at risk of overstretching their finances.

The IMF report said: “House price inflation is particularly high in London, and is becoming more widespread. So far, there are few of the typical signs of a credit-led bubble.

”Nonetheless, a steady increase in the size of new mortgages compared with borrower incomes suggests that households are gradually becoming more vulnerable to income and interest rate shocks.“

”Macro-prudential policies should be the first line of defense against financial risks from the housing market.“

It said that raising mortgage lenders' capital requirements ”would build additional buffers against increased exposures to the housing sector”.

The Bank of England's Financial Policy Committee (FPC) is due to meet later in June and could announce measures to control mortgage lending. In May, 25% taxpayer-backed Lloyds Banking Group said it would limit its mortgage lending to four times a borrower's income on loans above £500,000.

On Tuesday, Royal Bank of Scotland - which remains 80% taxpayer-owned - said it would also restrict the amount it advanced to mortgage borrowers.

The IMF added the government should consider modifying or even pulling the plug on its flagship mortgage guarantee scheme - known as Help to Buy 2 - if house prices showed signs of overheating. Recent figures from the Treasury showed 7,000 homes were bought through the Help to Buy scheme between its launch in October and March.

That amounted to just over £1bn of mortgages since the scheme's launch, involving just £153m of government guarantees.

Earlier the chancellor told BBC Radio 4's Today program: “We need to be alert to the build-up of debt in the housing market, we need to be alert when we see house prices rising.”

“We have given the Bank of England the tools to do the job and they should not hesitate to use those tools if they see these developments turning into a risk for the British economy.”

While the IMF praised the Bank of England's policy of forward guidance, it warned that if economic growth expanded more than current forecasts suggest, interest rates might have to rise more quickly in order to control inflation.

Bank governor Mark Carney has previously stated that he envisages interest rates rising from their historic low of 0.5% incrementally and not before the middle of 2015.

The IMF also echoed the Bank of England's own concerns about productivity levels, saying that despite evidence of the UK economic recovery strengthening, productivity growth remained low.

Categories: Economy, Politics, International.

Top Comments

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  • DanyBerger

    Well Uk have been warned by IMF about Housing Bubble...

    Another bubble crash may be?????

    Jun 07th, 2014 - 09:10 am 0
  • Anglotino

    Aaah Dany so glad you like listening to the IMF.

    Here's what they said about Argentina recently:

    “Near-term prospects in Argentina and Venezuela have deteriorated further. Both economies continue to grapple with difficult external funding conditions and the negative impact on output from pervasive exchange and administrative controls.”

    “Activity in Argentina and Venezuela is expected to slow markedly during 2014, though the outlook is subject to high uncertainty. Persistently loose macroeconomic policies have generated high inflation and a drain on official foreign exchange reserves. The gap between official and market exchange rates remains large in both countries, and has continued to widen in Venezuela. Administrative measures taken to manage domestic and external imbalances, including controls on prices, exchange rates, and trade, are weighing further on confidence and activity. Recently, both countries adjusted their exchange rates, and Argentina raised interest rates, but dmore significant policy changes are needed to stave off a disorderly adjustment.”

    Real GDP growth 2014 is estimated at 0.5% and 2014 is estimated at 1%.

    Yep, certainly glad you like listening to the IMF.

    Jun 07th, 2014 - 09:53 am 0
  • Conqueror

    @1 Quite recently the IMF had to apologise to the UK for “getting it wrong”.

    Just look.

    How sad that an inconsequential latino thinks it should quote the IMF to the UK. Doesn't shiteland blame the IMF for all its “problems”? Conveniently forgetting to mention corruption, criminality, incompetence, larceny, mendacity!

    And the UK should pay attention because............?

    The good thing about latino transsexuals is all the bits that can be sliced off and made useful as bergers, sausages, meatballs, salami, dog and cat food.

    Jun 07th, 2014 - 12:05 pm 0
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