Bank of England keeps interest rates on hold on first-quarter slump


Bank of England keeps interest rates on hold on first-quarter slump

Markets no longer expect the Bank to raise rates this year after it cut its economic growth, inflation and wage growth forecasts.

But the decision to keep the bank rate on hold was not unanimous, with two members of the monetary policy committee voting for a hike to 0.75 per cent.

Tom Stevenson, investment director for personal investing at Fidelity International, explains: "Until a few weeks ago, a further quarter point rate hike to 0.75% looked nearly guaranteed". In February, Mr Carney said rates might need to rise somewhat faster than markets had expected. And it would have taken borrowing rates to their highest since nearly nine years ago, when the central bank was slashing rates to help the economy through its deepest recession since World War II following the global financial crisis.

- The Bank's economic forecasts will also be important as GBPUSD stabilizes after its recent sharp falls. For the majority of members, an increase in Bank Rate was not required at this meeting.

All in all, this latest rate freeze will come as a welcome boost to a market that is acting slightly neurotically at the moment.

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And there are fears that the first-quarter slowdown may not just be a weather-related blip, with official data revealing more widespread weakness and survey data for April showing little sign of a bounce-back.

The inflation report also reduced inflation forecasts to 2.4% in Q2 - from 2.7% previously - and by a basis point in the following years. That matters as the Bank of England's primary mission is get inflation close to 2 percent.

With the domestic outlook look rather muted, in part thanks to the continuing drag of Brexit uncertainty, the prospect of another interest rate hike remains somewhat fragile.

As the European Central Bank acknowledged the subdued nature of domestic inflation and the recent signs of slowing economic momentum the prospect of any shift towards tighter monetary policy remains limited.

The projections are conditional on the main interest rate rising to 1.1 percent in two years and to 1.2 percent in three years. But it puts all this down to the first-quarter slump, which it suspects will be revised up to 0.3% from the initial estimate of 0.1%. Traders expect the currency to rally, depending on the outcome of Brexit negotiations; for the moment, most polls still project an orderly Brexit. House prices are falling, most notably in London, retail sales are soft because the consumer is so stretched, and the services sector is "on pause" because of Brexit, according to Mizuho's Peter Chatwell. For 2019 and 2020, it predicted GDP growth would pick up to 1.7 per cent, down from 1.8 per cent in its February forecasts.

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