Stock markets 'jumped the gun', says outgoing governor Mervyn King

Sir Montagu Norman, one of Sir Mervyn King's most illustrious predecessors as governor of the Bank of England, reputedly took as his personal motto, "never explain, never excuse". These days, central bankers seem to do little else.

King used his parting appearance at the Treasury select committee on Tuesday to explain a few things to over-excited markets, which have been convulsed in recent days by fears of an abrupt rise in interest rates, after Ben Bernanke announced that the Fed hopes to start "tapering" its $85bn (£55.1bn)-a-month bond-buying programme by the end of the year.

Markets had "jumped the gun", King said, stressing that any withdrawal of the massive stimulus central banks have injected into the economy since 2008 would only take place when the recovery is on a firmer footing.

Yet the turmoil of the past few days has laid bare the fact that however clearly they communicate it (and some have argued that Bernanke may have been too transparent), central banks face a colossal and risky task in delicately withdrawing the massive support they have provided over the past five years, without bringing markets – and thus the very economic recovery they hope to nurture – down around their ears. In these circumstances, Norman's approach might seem perfectly understandable.

In the UK, there is little sign of the sustainable recovery that would need to be in place for QE to be withdrawn. Analysts at JP Morgan predict that the first rate rise since 2007 might come in 2015 at the earliest.

Until that time comes, King had some parting advice for his successor, Mark Carney, who has set great store by announcing the likely future path of interest rates, and is expected to advocate the same approach at the Bank – don't get too hung up on the PR.

"The question of communications in my mind, although very important, is a second order problem compared with the question of how can we create the economic conditions so that the economy can get back to sustainable growth all around the world", King said.

Powered by article was written by Heather Stewart, for on Tuesday 25th June 2013 18.33 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


image: © John Nakamura Remy

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