Banks pull mortgages from sale amid interest rate chaos

banks uk england mortgages sale interest rate rising chaos pound sterling
banks uk england mortgages sale interest rate rising chaos pound sterling

Banks have withdrawn mortgage deals in anticipation of a rate rise from the Bank of England to counter the turmoil facing the pound in the wake of last week's mini-budget.

Halifax, Virgin Money and Skipton were among providers to take the step.

The lenders acted after a day of wild swings on currency markets which saw the pound fall to a record low of less than $1.04 against the dollar and a big sell-off of British government gilts.

The chaos led the Treasury to issue a statement pledging to set out its approach to managing the public finances, followed minutes later by the Bank of England saying it was watching markets carefully and wouldn't hesitate to increase rates at its next meeting.

Markets now expect rates to rise sharply in the coming months - with traders predicting they will hit 6 per cent mid way through next year, which would add £800 to the monthly cost of a typical mortgage.

Mr Kwarteng has publicly played down any concerns about sterling movements in recent days and yesterday declined to comment on recent drops.

Conservative peer Lord Frost, a Truss ally, said the fallout to the mini-Budget had been "unwarranted" and an "over-reaction".

But some Tory backbenchers have expressed disquiet about the handling of the economy in the first month of Liz Truss’s premiership.

One Conservative MP told The Daily Telegraph: "I've had calls from people on opposite ends of the party ringing me up, because there are a lot of people worried about their seats and the long-term future of the party.

"They are petrified of the prospect of interest rate rises. The reality is kicking in about what that would mean for ordinary households.

"There is a real danger that the Finance Bill could face massive problems."

It comes as Sir Keir Starmer is set to paint Labour as the party of “sound money”, as he lays out his Blairite vision for the future of the country.

On Monday, Halifax, owned by Lloyds Banking Group and Britain’s biggest mortgage provider, announced that from Tuesday night it will temporarily withdraw all deals offered via brokers which have an arrangement fee.

The bank said the changes were as “a result of significant changes in mortgage market pricing we’ve seen over recent weeks”.

Smaller lenders rushed to follow suit. Virgin Money said that it had temporarily withdrawn all mortgage products for new customers. Clydesdale Bank, Scottish Building Society, Paragon, Leek United Building Society, Skipton Building Society and The Nottingham for Intermediaries also pulled mortgage deals, with more expected to add their names to the list.

Sterling initially recovered to above $1.09 yesterday afternoon on hopes of an interest rate rise and then fell sharply again after Andrew Bailey, the Governor of the Bank of England, said the Bank would not act until its next scheduled meeting on 3 November.

The Governor has faced mounting criticism over the Bank's failure to impose sharper interest rate rises, including last Thursday when it increased the base rate by 0.5 percentage points. The City had expected a 0.75 percentage point rise.

The hedge fund manager Paul Marshall claimed the Bank was “behind the curve” and had “effectively lost control of the UK bond market” as a result of last week’s decision.

On Monday, Mr Bailey said the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee, which sets interest rates “will not hesitate to change interest rates by as much as needed to return inflation to the 2pc target sustainably in the medium term, in line with its remit”.

"As the MPC has made clear, it will make a full assessment at its next scheduled meeting of the impact on demand and inflation from the Government’s announcements, and the fall in sterling, and act accordingly."

In a pointed reference to market demand for forecasts for the public finances from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), which were not released by Kwasi Kwarteng, the Chancellor, when he announced plans to slash taxes last week, Mr Bailey said: “I welcome the Government’s commitment to sustainable economic growth, and to the role of the Office for Budget Responsibility in its assessment of prospects for the economy and public finances.”

Minutes before Mr Bailey issued his statement, the Treasury announced that there would be a “medium-term fiscal plan” set out on November 23, including details of how the national debt burden will ease, along with forecasts for the public finances from the OBR.

A Treasury spokesman said: “The Fiscal Plan will set out further details on the Government’s fiscal rules, including ensuring that debt falls as a share of GDP in the medium-term.”

However, Paul Dales, chief UK economist at Capital Economics, said that Mr Bailey and Mr Kwarteng had done “the bare minimum” to try to stem the slide in the pound and rising cost of public borrowing.

“It is possible that this is enough to stop the rot. But… the markets may well need more reassurance and some actual action.”

Mr Kwarteng is understood to have spoken with Mr Bailey yesterday as they worked out how to respond to market movements.

There are signs that Ms Truss’s senior team is pulling back on plans to shake up the Bank, after a summer in which she vowed to rip up its mandate and hinted at criticism of its recent performance.

The Telegraph can reveal that plans to rewrite the Bank’s mandate have been pushed back to Spring 2023 at the earliest as both institutions battle inflation and market scepticism together.

In Sir Keir's keynote speech to his party conference in Liverpool, he will on Tuesday declare Labour as the party of fiscal responsibility in contrast to the Tories whom he will blame for the turmoil on the markets.

In a direct echo of Tony Blair, the Labour leader will insist his party is once again the “political wing of the British people” - a phrase used in the election-winning manifesto of 1997.

Sir Keir will tell delegates that two years after the end of the disastrous Corbyn years, Labour is now back at the “centre ground” of British politics and will “fight the Tories on economic growth”.

He will unveil plans to turn the UK into a “growth superpower” by working in close partnership with business.

Sir Keir will attempt to draw a contrast between Labour's plan for growth and the Tories’ mini-Budget.

He will say it is the Labour Party that now stands for “sound money” and will recommit Labour to an Office for Value for Money to make sure taxpayers’ money is spent in the national interest - a plan designed to reassure a sceptical public that Labour can be trusted with their money.