Bank of England maintains policy rate

Posted May 11, 2018

The Bank of England's monetary policy committee Thursday chose to keep interest rates on hold.

Despite the near-term softness, the MPC's central forecast for economic activity is little changed from that in the previous Report.

Economists had previously expected two rises in 2018 after the Bank's February forecasts, when Governor Mark Carney said rates would need to rise further and faster to rein in inflation.

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Investors appear unclear as to what's likely to happen next.

"The judgment relies on the economic data being broadly consistent with the Monetary Policy Committee's projections", Carney told reporters. They no longer price in a full 25 basis point rate rise in December, according to Reuters data. Britain's economy grew more slowly than most of its peers a year ago, after a Brexit-driven jump in inflation hit consumer spending power and some businesses delayed long-term investment. "Growth slowed even more sharply in early 2018 on a mix of unusually icy weather and headwinds from Britain's impending European Union exit". Survey indicators suggest that growth was somewhat stronger in Q1 than implied by the preliminary estimate.

For now, most policymakers wanted to wait to be sure that the economic weakness passed quickly. The Bank of England adjusts the base rate in accordance with the general economic climate in order to either encourage saving or spending with the general aim of maintaining a prosperous and stable economy. But "there was value in seeing how the data unfolded over the coming months", they added.

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The Guardian quoted Tom Stevenson, investment director for Personal Investing at Fidelity International, as pointing out that the BoE had pulled another U-turn, having hinted in February that rates would rise today.

Looking ahead, the bank of England sees the rate hike path in line with the market forecast that sees the 86 percent probability of the Bank of England moving in November, down from 86 percent anticipated ahead of May Inflation Report. It particularly affected construction, Carney said.

And while Brexit-fuelled inflation has fallen sharper than expected in recent months, the Bank said rate hikes would still be needed over the next three years, with cost pressures building in the economy.

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CPI inflation fell to 2.5% in March, lower than expected at the time of the February Report. The near-stalling of the economy has led the MPC to cut its annual growth forecast to 1.4% for this year, although it has left its forecasts for 2019 and 2020 unchanged at 1.7%.