Bank of England 'closely monitoring' funds as bond support nears end

A London bus travels past the Bank of England in London, Britain, October 10, 2022. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

By David Milliken and Huw Jones

LONDON, Oct 12 (Reuters) - The Bank of England said on Wednesday it was "closely monitoring" liability-driven investment (LDI) funds ahead of the end of its support for the bond market on Friday.

The BoE stepped into Britain's bond market on Sept. 28 to try to stop a fire sale of assets by LDI funds used in the pension industry, after they were hit by a slump in bond prices following finance minister Kwasi Kwarteng's Sept. 23 mini-budget.

However, the BoE has said from the start that its gilt purchase programme is temporary, ending on Oct. 14, and Governor Andrew Bailey said on Tuesday that if funds needed to restructure, they had just three days left to "get this done".

The BoE's Financial Policy Committee had a similar message in a quarterly report on Wednesday.

"The Bank, The Pensions Regulator and the Financial Conduct Authority are closely monitoring the progress of LDI managers as they put their funds on a sustainable footing for whatever level of asset prices prevails when the Bank ceases purchasing gilts," it said.

Earlier on Tuesday, a BoE spokesperson confirmed the purchases would end on Oct. 14 and that "it had been made absolutely clear in contact with banks at senior levels".

While funds could not be expected to prepare for every market shock - and many LDI funds were based outside Britain - regulators would soon seek to tighten rules, the FPC added.

To date, the BoE has bought 8.8 billion pounds of gilts, including 1.9 billion pounds of index-linked bonds at the first sale on Tuesday after the BoE broadened the scope of its purchases.

More broadly, the BoE said the global economic outlook had deteriorated significantly since July, and rising interest rates would pose growing challenges to households, though banks remained well capitalised.

If interest rates rose as fast as markets expected, the proportion of households facing high debt servicing costs, when adjusted for the increased cost of living, would reach levels seen before the 2008 global financial crisis.

"It will be challenging for some households to manage the projected rises in the cost of essentials alongside higher interest rates," the BoE said.

The BoE also said the size and composition of Britain's current account deficit "make it vulnerable to reductions in foreign investor appetite for UK assets" and that this "may be heightened in current circumstances".

(Reporting by David Milliken and Huw Jones)



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