Shock Q4 figure have a small silver lining . . .

It’s worse than we thought guv !

Today’s revelation that the UK economy contracted -0.5% in Q4 2010 was a sobering moment. Although not entirely suprising, as I discussed some months ago here and here. Quite apart from further highlighting the ongoing utter uselessness of macroeconomic forecasting which estimated a range of growth of between +0.1 and +0.6, I can see one positive outcome.

Interest rates are not going to go up any time soon. I never bought into the big Weimar-style inflation threat. If there’s so much cheap money around, why’s my bank offering me an overdraft at 10% when the base rate is 0.5%?

The rise in our inflation is not to do with QE, but principally stems from a market-driven decline in the value of the pound (thank God we have a floating currency), the additional rising cost of internationally priced, fungible commodities and our Politicians raising VAT – of which only the first we can control with interest rates.

And once those increases in prices have fed through, where do they think the inflationary wage spiral is going to come from?

With 2.5 million unemployed and many others underemployed, there are a lot of people looking for work out there, ready to work for much less.

On balance, I’m still more worried by deflation than inflation. And inflation hawks still have a lot to prove before they win the argument for large interest rate rises.

Andrew Sentance of the MPC will be feeling a little less confident now.