The fall of Liz Truss, Britain’s prime minister for just six tumultuous weeks, has plunged the nation into another phase of economic uncertainty.
When Ms. Truss announced her resignation on Thursday as Conservative Party leader, saying she would stand down as prime minister, the markets that had rebelled against her fiscal policies engaged in a weak and short-lived rally. Investors were left wondering who would be the new leader and what lay ahead for Britain’s economic policy. On Friday morning, government bonds were falling, pushing yields higher, and the pound was dropping.
“It’s a leap into the unknown,” said Antoine Bouvet, an interest rates strategist at ING.
Overall the initial reaction, Mr. Bouvet added, suggested that investors expect that a new prime minister will go ahead with fiscal plans generally supported by the market. But he said it was too early to be sure.
“Let’s see who gets elected leader and what they say on fiscal policy,” he said.
The next prime minister, the third this year, will face a long list of economic challenges. Annual inflation topped 10 percent last month as food prices rose at their fastest pace in more than 40 years. Wages haven’t kept up with rising prices, bringing about a cost-of-living crisis and labor unrest. There is a deepening slump in consumer spending with data on Friday showing people were buying less than before the pandemic. Interest rates are set to rise even as the economy stagnates. And Russia’s war in Ukraine is still rippling through the global economy, especially the energy market.
provoked extraordinary volatility in markets at the end of September when her first chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, announced a plan for widespread tax cuts and huge spending, to be financed by borrowing. Amid the highest inflation in four decades and rising interest rates, markets deemed the plan, delivered without any independent assessment, a rupture in Britain’s reputation for fiscal credibility. The pound dropped to a record low, and government bond yields shot up so violently the central bank was forced to intervene to stop a crisis in the pension funds industry.
began to settle markets. However, bond yields remain noticeably higher than they were before the September tax plan was announced, as investors still demand a higher premium to lend to Britain. On Thursday, 10-year government bond yields closed at 3.91 percent, up from 3.50 percent on Sept. 22, the day before Mr. Kwarteng’s policy announcement.
Ms. Truss’s tenure as prime minister, the shortest in British history, was undone by economic policies that harked back to the trickle-down economics of the 1980s, built on the belief that tax cuts for the wealthy were fair and would lead to investment and economic growth that would benefit everyone.