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The Bank of England in London on Dec. 16, 2021. Photo: Tolga Akmen/Getty Images

The Bank of England is giving investors whiplash. Last month, it didn’t hike rates when it had been widely expected to — and on Thursday it raised rates despite not being expected to.

Why it matters: Like the Federal Reserve’s hawkish pivot on Wednesday, the U.K. central bank's move shows that doing battle against inflation is priority number one.

  • With cases of the Omicron variant surging and U.K. businesses like theaters and shops self-closing, bank watchers had scaled back their expectations for liftoff.

The big picture: The BoE is officially the first major central bank to hike rates from rock-bottom pandemic-era levels.

  • Its decision, despite the emerging Omicron concerns, shows that "the BoE worries more about the risks of a 6% inflation peak feeding into wage pressures than it does about the likely large hit to consumer spending next year or Omicron risks,” wrote BofA analysts in a research note.

Worth noting: Hours before the BoE announced its decision, U.K. PMI data hit that showed weakening economic activity so far this month.

  • "Today's PMI fall may presage a growth hit that could raise unemployment," BofA analysts wrote. "Higher inflation will squeeze real incomes more, crimping demand growth. January could see growth worries rise as Omicron spreads elsewhere."

The bottom line: The decision leaves room for the bank to take it slow. The uplift was just 0.15%, and the bank’s statement indicates it may not continue hikes at its next few meetings.

Go deeper

What Biden's Fed nominations mean for policy

Sarah Bloom Raskin at a 2013 hearing. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Getty Images

Now that President Biden's long-awaited nominations for vacant seats on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors have dropped, the big question is how Sarah Bloom Raskin, Lisa Cook, and Philip Jefferson, if confirmed, might shift policy.

  • The answer: Don't expect any big changes to the central bank's policy direction overnight — but do expect it to prioritize a healthy labor market more in the years ahead.

Why it matters: The Fed's actions shape the economy in ways that outlast the presidents who appoint them — and the Biden-appointed Fed looks to be a more explicitly pro-worker central bank than we've seen in modern times.

The big picture: With inflation running hot, the Fed is in the midst of a pivot to more hawkish monetary policy — possibly including raising interest rates in March.

  • Raskin, Cook, and Jefferson are unlikely to stand in the way of that pivot, and not just because the slow-moving Senate confirmation process means it will likely be well underway before they are confirmed for their new jobs.
  • The Fed is a consensus-driven institution, and the consensus has swung decisively in a hawkish direction in the last three months. Even normally-dovish officials like San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly and Chicago Fed president Charles Evans on board with the policy shift.

But over time, the new additions to the Board of Governors — who have a permanent vote on monetary policy, unlike regional Fed presidents who rotate — have emphasized the importance of running a hot labor market in order to achieve gains for workers and greater racial equality.

  • That implies the three new governors would resist continuing to push interest rates higher once inflation moderates.

What they're saying: "Inflation is so high and political pressures on the Fed are so strong (including from Democrats), that we doubt they will push hard against the will of the committee," wrote Roberto Perli and Benson Durham of Cornerstone Macro, in a client note.

  • But, they add, "Because all of them have expressed views in favor of broader expansion of the labor market, … we can expect them to resist substantial tightening in the future."

Regulatory policy is a different matter. If confirmed as vice chair for supervision — and Republican Senators will try to stop that from happening — Raskin would have more explicit power over a wide range of regulatory policy, and look to rein in the deregulatory impulses of her predecessor, Trump appointee Randal Quarles.

The bottom line: As the Biden Fed takes shape, it will include more voices focused on workers than in modern memory. But the course of policy depends on whether inflation trends allow them to act on those instincts.

Nathan Bomey, author of Closer
Jan 14, 2022 - Economy & Business

Even banks can't outrun inflation

Photo: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

For the nation’s largest banks, inflation may be too much of a good (for them) thing.

Driving the news: JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup shares fell today — despite delivering solid quarterly revenue and profit — amid concerns that the banks won’t be able to outrun inflation.

Hope King, author of Closer
32 mins ago - Economy & Business

Peloton pumps its brakes

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Peloton’s popularity is falling as swiftly as it shot up.

Why it matters: Not all pandemic habits stick around. Peloton's trajectory over the past two years exemplifies how challenging it's been for companies to gauge shifts in consumer demand — particularly in sectors heavily altered by the pandemic.