UK commercial property market strong enough to withstand interest rate rise

Taylor Scott International News

There are few concerns about a rise in interest rates in the UK commercial property market which is regarded as being strong enough to take a base rate rise in its stride, according to a new report. The all property capital growth index rose by 0.7% in July month on month, which is down on the 0.9% reported for June, the latest market outlook report from real estate firm Knight Frank shows. Industrial saw the highest capital growth at 1.2% and retail the lowest at 0.2% while 12 month total return fell again to 16.2%. Investment volume from January to July was £38.4 billion, up from £30.1 billion for the same period of 2014. ‘Normally a rise in interest rates signals that the UK economy has moved into a period of excess, and the Bank of England has decided it is time to rein back inflationary pressures. So it is unusual to find widespread discussion on when interest rates will rise at a time when inflation is largely absent, and could stay that way for some time,’ said James Roberts chief economist at Knight Frank. ‘However, this rate increase is different. It is a sign the UK economy, like the US, is getting near to the day it can throw away the crutches of very low interest rates. Indeed, UK policymakers now want the safety net of higher rates. Should we hit another economic crisis, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) will thus have the option of cutting rates before resorting to printing money,’ he explained. ‘Parts of Europe presently have negative interest rates, and were some fresh disaster to unfold, they would have little choice other than to plunge further into the minus figures, or print money. All this increases the UK’s safe haven credentials. This probably explains why at present the commercial property industry seems to be so little concerned about the approach of higher interest rates,’ he pointed out. ‘When presenting to clients on the UK market one is more likely to be asked about the impact of the EU in/out referendum, or even the Chinese slowdown, than a rate rise. We live in a world of hedges and swaps which soften the impact of rate rises, and the Bank of England is giving lots of guidance to prevent firms and households from being wrong footed. So while the cost of debt will rise, most borrowers will be ready for the change,’ he added. Roberts explained that the Bank’s guidance is that rates will rise gradually over a long period, and there are very good reasons for this gradual strategy. ‘Financial institutions hold lots of Gilts, so big and sudden losses on bonds could reopen systemic uncertainties initially. Also, thinking back on those countries where rates are negative or nearly zero, if UK rates move too far ahead, then carry trade money will flood into British banks, with the risk of creating a future lending bubble,’ he said. ‘Moreover, the MPC’s… Continue reading →

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