The Bank of England has been forced into emergency action to halt a run on Britain’s pension funds after the impact of Kwasi Kwarteng’s ill-received mini budget prompted fears of a 2008-style financial crisis.
Threadneedle Street said the fallout from a dramatic rise in government borrowing costs since the chancellor’s statement had left it with no choice but to intervene to protect the UK’s financial system.
City sources said the surprise move, less than a week after Kwarteng’s unfunded tax giveaways, was needed to halt a “doom loop” in the bond markets that risked draining pension funds of cash and leaving them at risk of insolvency.
The Bank was concerned that it threatened the financial health of Britain’s biggest pensions and insurance companies, which together manage trillions of pounds of people’s cash.
In a reversal of a policy position announced on the day before Kwarteng’s fiscal event, the Bank said it was setting aside £65bn to buy bonds over the next 13 working days to ease pressure on pension funds and insurance companies.
The Bank said it had become alarmed at the turbulence in the markets after the chancellor’s mini-budget last Friday, and has been particularly concerned at the sell-off in government gilts, the bonds it floats to cover its borrowing.
“Were dysfunction in this market to continue or worsen, there would be a material risk to UK financial stability. This would lead to an unwarranted tightening of financing conditions and a reduction of the flow of credit to the real economy.
“In line with its financial stability objective, the Bank of England stands ready to restore market functioning and reduce any risks from contagion to credit conditions for UK households and businesses.”
It comes as the crash in the government bond market brought some pension funds close to running out of cash, as they faced demands to meet margin calls on complex derivatives they had bought to cover their pensions liabilities.
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