BOE Correction Shaves $20 Billion Off Gilt Buying for March

Updated on
Bank of England
The Bank of England could provide up to 10 billion pounds to the ECB in exchange for euros. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

The Bank of England said nonresidents invested almost half as much in gilts in March as previously announced, correcting data that had bizarrely signaled record inflows into the U.K. just before a deadlocked election.

Buyers acquired 14.8 billion pounds ($22.5 billion) in bonds, the central bank said in a statement. That’s 13.4 billion pounds less than it said in a release on May 1. It cited a “clerical error” made while entering statistics for February that skewed March data to suggest a record that month.

The correction on the eve of Britain’s vote on Thursday amends a report that had prompted news coverage on how many overseas investors were somehow sanguine enough to overlook a likely inconclusive result. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney and his colleagues had sought to avoid the spotlight before the election by refraining from public comments, limiting any communication to data releases such as this one.

“It changes the picture a little,” said David Keeble, the New York-based head of fixed-income strategy at Credit Agricole SA. “It’s an embarrassment for sure. We do get revisions a lot in data, so maybe they can brush it off. It’s not a crucial number for the election or anything like it, so it looks like an embarrassing but honest mistake.”

In February, nonresident investors bought 5.8 billion pounds in gilts, rather than selling 7.6 billion pounds as previously stated, the BOE said. As a result, March data showing purchases of 28.2 billion pounds were wrong, it said.

Election Deadlock

The overall inflow of gilt purchases for the first quarter remains unchanged at 14.6 billion pounds, and the stock of holdings is also unaffected. A BOE spokeswoman declined to comment on the matter.

The pound fell against the dollar and U.K. bonds eased on May 1 after a report showed manufacturing grew the least in seven months. Sterling was trading at $1.5167 as of 9:27 a.m. London time on Thursday, down 0.5 percent on the day, while the yield on the 10-year gilt gained 2 basis points to 2 percent.

Britons are now casting votes in an election where the Conservative and Labour parties are running neck-and-neck in opinion polls. Such an outcome might leave both Prime Minister David Cameron and opposition Leader Ed Miliband struggling to form a government.

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