Business

Bank holds interest rates at 0.75 per cent after August hike

Bank of England policy makers sat tight on interest rates on Thursday after last month's milestone hike

THE Bank of England has kept interest rates on hold at 0.75 per cent after August's hike, but it confirmed further increases are likely to be needed to rein in inflation.

Members of the Bank's nine-strong Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted unanimously to keep rates unchanged, having backed a quarter-point rise last month - only the second since the financial crisis.

The Bank said economic growth is on course to beat expectations for the third quarter thanks to a bumper July, but it cautioned over "greater uncertainty" on Brexit.

In minutes of the latest rates meeting, the Bank revealed its internal estimates show economic growth is set to pick up pace to around 0.5 per cent in the third quarter, from 0.4 per cent between April and June.

It had previously predicted growth would remain steady at 0.4 per cent in the third quarter.

Official figures on Monday showed the UK economy enjoyed a growth spurt in July, with expansion of 0.3 per cent in the month and 0.6 per cent on a three-month basis thanks to a surge in spending driven by the World Cup and heatwave.

The Bank said while the outlook for consumer spending had not changed substantially, "if anything, spending in the third quarter might prove to be slightly stronger than expected".

Its decision to hold rates came as it said the August set of forecasts appear broadly on track.

But it said: "Were the economy to develop broadly in line with the August inflation report projections, an ongoing tightening of monetary policy would be appropriate to return inflation sustainably to the 2 per cent target at a conventional horizon."

Economists are not expecting the Bank to push the button on any more rate rises until after the March 2019 Brexit date due to the increased uncertainty.

Jacob Deppe, head of trading at the online trading platform Infinox, said: “What little mention the Monetary Policy Committee gave to future interest rate rises had the feeling of ‘when we’re driving hover cars and wearing silver suits’.

“That’s how far away the prospect of another rate hike appears to be. After the Bank of England Governor warned last week that a no-deal Brexit could squeeze Britons’ household incomes for years to come, it’s clear from this unanimous vote for the status quo that the MPC’s new policy is ‘do no harm’.

“In practical terms, the Bank’s rate-setting sages will take several months to assess the impact of August’s modest rate hike before seriously discussing a further rise.

Sterling was largely unmoved against the US dollar following the rates decision, trading up 0.1 per cent on the day to 1.30. Versus the euro, the pound was also up 0.1 per cent at 1.12.

The Bank signalled last month that rates would need to rise by around a quarter point a year over the next two or three years to bring inflation - currently running at 2.5 per cent - back to target.

However, the Bank confirmed that anxiety over Brexit is building amid fears of a no-deal scenario.

It said in the report: "Since the committee's previous meeting, there had been indications, most prominently in financial markets, of greater uncertainty about future developments in the withdrawal process."

The Chancellor confirmed on Tuesday that Bank governor Mark Carney will stay on in the post until January 2020, extending his term by seven months to help support the UK through Brexit.

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