Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Bank of England to keep its main interest rate unchanged at 0.5%

GBP  USD price chart GBP USD price chart
Kelvin Reese | 24 March, 2018, 14:15

"Our Monetary Policy Committee has voted by a majority of 7-2 to maintain Bank Rate at 0.50 percent", said a statement following a regular meeting.

Gilt futures initially fell after the BoE announcement but were stronger at 1320 GMT, up almost 80 ticks on the day, roughly in line with German bund futures.

One of Gordon Brown's first moves as chancellor in 1997 was to hand control of interest rates to an independent Bank of England. Which means this morning's meeting needed to lay some grit and sand for what must be an inevitable May interest rate hike.

The US Federal Reserve last night raised rates for the sixth time since the financial crisis.

MPC external policymakers Ian McCafferty and Michael Saunders voted to raise rates to 0.75 percent returning to their previous hawkishness from 2017.

While the Bank of England sat tight this time around, minutes of the meeting that ended Wednesday firmed up market expectations that the BoE will raise its key rate by a quarter-point at its next gathering in May.

The BoE, which is expected to keep rates on hold this month when it publishes its decision at 1200 GMT, has said before that it wants to see wages grow before it starts to hike rates to bring inflation levels back down to target. On Thursday, the BoE said developments since then broadly backed up their view.

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Rates are set by the Bank's monetary policy committee (MPC), which consists of nine members - the Bank of England governor, the three deputy governors for monetary policy, financial stability and markets and banking, the chief economist and four external members appointed directly by the chancellor.

"Given the prospect of excess demand over the forecast period, an ongoing tightening of monetary policy over the forecast period would be appropriate to return inflation sustainably to its target", the BoE said.

The bank had hiked the rates to 0.5% last November, the first increase in a decade.

The BOE's decision comes as Prime Minister Theresa May meets other European leaders in Brussels, where they are expected to sign off on the terms of a transition period to bridge the gap between Britain's EU exit in March 2019 and a final agreement on the terms of the country's future ties to the bloc. The UK's unemployment rate has meanwhile dipped, reverting to the lowest level since 1975, after a brief rise.

Ramsden says the Bank is also investigating ways in which fintech could help to improve regulation, building on existing work internally and in collaboration with the FCA.

Thursday followed with Britain's February retail sales results, which also beat expectations in most prints. Wages are picking up, suggesting consumer spending may strengthen. "Despite the hawkishness of today's communications - and even if the tone in May is hawkish too - we think the Bank's intentions to tighten will be thwarted by the data".

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