The US Senate passed a roughly USD 1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, including about USD 550 billion in new spending. This is aimed at rebuilding traditional transportation infrastructure, improve access to broadband internet in rural areas and upgrade the electric grid and water systems. The Senate Democrats also approved a USD 3.5 trillion budget resolution.
China released a five-year blueprint calling for increased regulation affecting key parts of the economy. The document signalled Beijing’s intention to draft new laws covering national security, technology, monopolies and education. In the technology sector, new legislation will cover areas such as online finance, artificial intelligence, big data and cloud computing.
The European Central Bank (ECB) revised its forward guidance, indicating it would keep interest rates “at their present or lower levels until it sees inflation reaching 2% well ahead of the end of its projection horizon and durably for the rest of the projection horizon, and it judges that realised progress in underlying inflation is sufficiently advanced to be consistent with inflation stabilising at 2% over the medium term.” The ECB indicated that this process could involve a short period in which inflation goes moderately above this target.
Consumer prices in America rose 5.4%, well above expectations. There are a small number of huge price rises, such as used cars, whereas the median price change is far lower.
In the UK CPI rose 2.5%. The Office for National Statistics cited increased prices for food, fuel, second-hand cars, clothing and footwear as key factors.
Last month America’s consumer prices inflation rate rose to 4.2% from 2.6% and this is before the full effects of the Biden stimulus plans take affect. Eurozone inflation accelerated to 1.6% year-on-year in April, up from 1.3% in March, following a sharp rise in the cost of energy compared to the height of the pandemic. UK annual inflation meanwhile more than doubled in April to 1.5% from 0.7% in March, although both remain below central bank target rates of 2% for now.
Saudi Arabia shocked the markets by raising pricing for oil customers after cutting supply by 1 million barrels a day in February and March.
The package is made up of €390bn programme of grants and the rest in loans.
UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak pledged an additional GBP 30 billion to support employment, on top of the GBP 133 billion in coronavirus measures he has already unveiled. The money includes over GBP 5 billion in accelerated infrastructure spending, about GBP 9 billion for employers to retain workers through the end of January, funds for home insulation, and help for homebuyers and for hospitality firms.
The Bank of England increased quantitative easing by £100bn and kept base rates at 0.1%. That takes the total to £745 bn. The program was started with an initial £200 bn back in 2009.
The government has sold a gilt with a negative yield for the first time. An auction by the Debt Management Office of a gilt maturing in July 2023 sold at an average yield of -0.003 per cent.
A negative yield means that the government is effectively being rewarded to borrow as investors agree to be repaid slightly less than they lent.