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Bank of England Poised to Raise Rates
The Bank of England is gearing up to implement a quarter-point interest rate increase to 5.25% on August 3rd, with economists and markets speculating the possibility of a repeat of June’s surprise half-point hike. The decision comes amid persistently high inflation rates in the UK, which continue to outpace other major economies.
While the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank have recently raised rates, they are perceived to be closer to the end of their rate-tightening cycles. In contrast, the trajectory of Bank of England rates remains uncertain, with investors closely monitoring whether the UK is grappling with entrenched inflationary pressures or if a slowdown is imminent.
Economic indicators have been sending mixed signals, contributing to the uncertainty surrounding the Bank of England’s rate decisions. Recent data showed record wage growth, leading to expectations of peak rates reaching 6.5%. However, these expectations were moderated by a larger-than-anticipated decline in consumer price inflation. Consequently, investors are currently split between forecasts of a peak rate of 5.75% or 6% by late 2023 or early 2024. These heightened expectations have already impacted the housing market, with mortgage costs reaching their highest levels since 2008, and some sectors experiencing slowed growth, as seen in a survey showing a six-month low in private-sector expansion.
Governor Andrew Bailey has emphasized the Bank of England’s commitment to tackling inflation, asserting that it is crucial to persist in curbing the soaring prices. Although consumer price inflation declined to 7.9% in June from 8.7% in July, it remains significantly above the central bank’s 2% target and double the rate in the United States. Bailey acknowledged that short-term fluctuations in energy prices have influenced this decline, but underlying pressures still warrant attention. The upcoming rate decision will also coincide with the release of revised growth and inflation forecasts, which are likely to be adjusted downwards due to higher market rate expectations. Furthermore, the appointment of former Kroll Institute chief economist Megan Greene as a new member of the Monetary Policy Committee may signal a more hawkish approach, given her recent statements that inflation may not automatically revert to pre-pandemic levels.
As the Bank of England faces challenging economic conditions, the decision on interest rates and its future path will undoubtedly shape the trajectory of the UK’s economic recovery in the months to come.