UK long-term borrowing costs surge above 5% for first time since 2002

Policymakers under pressure to respond to market fears or risk further turbulence

Workers walk past the Bank of England in the City of London. Reuters
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The UK government’s long-term borrowing costs soared above 5 per cent for the first time in two decades as investors braced for a flood of bond supply and aggressive rate rises.

The market suffered another day of meltdown, wiping out an earlier relief rally, as the government vowed to plough ahead with a fiscal stimulus that the Bank of England’s chief economist said requires a significant policy response.

That led money markets to bet on four percentage points more interest-rate rises by May, which would take the central bank's key rate to 6.25 per cent, the highest since 2001.

The sell-off has wiped out billions in bondholder value and left investors demanding more yield to hold the nation’s debt than Greece.

With the government planning to significantly lift borrowing, policymakers are under pressure to respond to market fears or risk further turbulence.

“This is a crisis of confidence in government borrowing rather than currency,” said Gordon Shannon, a portfolio manager at TwentyFour Asset Management.

The pound was little changed on Tuesday at $1.0668, after bouncing back from a record low on Monday.

The latest leg of the sell-off was so forceful that the spread between the five- and 30-year section widened the most since 1997, a sign investors are worried fiscal and monetary policy will remain far too loose.

Forced selling by pension funds may have compounded the moves, said David Parkinson, sterling rates product manager at RBC Capital Markets.

They tend to own long-dated debt to match liabilities that stretch decades into the future.

“The steepening of the long end today and yesterday is down to upcoming supply and pension fund selling triggered by collateral calls,” Mr Parkinson said.

Updated: September 27, 2022, 7:35 PM
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