over 1 year ago • 3 mins
The European Central Bank (ECB) announced on Thursday that it’ll finally be hiking interest rates next month.
What does this mean?
Inflation in the Eurozone hit another record high for the third month in a row in May, with prices 8.1% higher than the same time last year. That’s a long way off the ECB’s official target of 2%, and it’s forced the central bank to cave into long-rejected measures. First, it confirmed it’s on track to halt its bond-buying program in July. Then it said that it’ll be raising interest rates by 0.25% next month, despite having previously said it wouldn’t do anything of the kind this year. It even left the door open for a bigger hike in September, which shows how serious it is about the problem at hand: it’s been more than a decade since it last hiked rates, and marks a turnaround from an eight-year policy of negative rates and mass bond-buying.
Why should I care?
Zooming in: The ECB fiddled while Rome burned.
This rate hike will still leave the ECB way behind the 60-odd other central banks that have already raised rates this year, which is understandable: it’s been trying to rein in inflation amid a backdrop of war that’s hit Europe particularly badly. Trouble is, this hesitancy seems to have made matters worse: the ECB is now expecting inflation to be 6.8% this year, and economic growth to be 2.8% – compared to its previous forecasts of 5.1% and 3.7%.
The bigger picture: Make sure Rome doesn’t burn to the ground…
Economists at BlackRock think rates will rise more slowly than investors are expecting once they break into positive territory. After all, the ECB can’t risk doing more than it absolutely has to: consumer confidence in the eurozone is already near all-time lows, while the eurozone’s most indebted members – we’re looking at you, Italy – are much more sensitive to increases in borrowing rates.
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British department store John Lewis announced on Thursday that it’ll start building its own rental properties.
What does this mean?
John Lewis is the UK’s middle-class go-to for everything from cardigans to kitchen appliances, rugs to rowing machines. But a lot of those products aren’t exactly at the top of Brits’ shopping lists at a time when a tank of gas costs over £100 ($125) and a pint of beer has crossed the £8 ($10) mark. So now the company is aiming to make 40% of its revenue from non-retail sources by 2030, with plans already in place to expand into areas like financial services, furniture lending, and gardening services. But first up is the rental market, as the company pushes ahead with plans to build 10,000 homes above or adjacent to its stores in the next decade.
Why should I care?
Zooming in: Landlord has a nice ring to it.
John Lewis’s career change isn’t just because retail has fallen out of favor, but because the rental market has very much fallen into favor. Strong demand has pushed up the price of rent, with monthly payments up around £100 on average from a year ago, according to property website Zoopla. The retailer’s been clever about the three locations it’s starting with too: all desperately need more housing, while two of them are a stone’s throw from the newly opened Elizabeth Line transport link in London.
The bigger picture: If you’ve got it, flaunt it.
This is the thing about retail chains: they’re not just shopping outlets, but a massive network of real estate. That gives them a tangible asset they can monetize even if the pandemic comes roaring back, or if ecommerce continues to reduce footfall. That real estate will be filled with beds in John Lewis’s case, and with desks in Tesco’s: the British grocery powerhouse just announced that it’s trialing desk space rental under a new deal with flexible office operator IWG.
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