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Bank Of England Holds Rates, Cuts Growth Outlook; Signals Hike

03 Août 2017

Growth then picks up to just above its reduced potential rate over the balance of the forecast period.

"The speed limit, if you will, of the economy has slowed", he told reporters.

This was down from a split of 5-3 at the last meeting in June, the closest it has come to raising rates in a decade.

The pound hit a nine-month low against the euro and fell by more than a cent against the US dollar. The Committee voted unanimously to maintain the stock of sterling non-financial investment-grade corporate bond purchases, financed by the issuance of central bank reserves, at £10 billion.

The BOE held its benchmark interest rate steady at 0.25% following the conclusion of its August policy meeting, as expected.

Average earnings are forecast to grow 2 percent this year, unchanged from the prior projection.

The Bank last changed interest rates in August a year ago when it cut its bank rate from 0.5% to 0.25% in the immediate aftermath of the UK's referendum vote to leave the European Union. Wage growth was also revised down, with the bank now expecting wages to contract this year by 0.5% on an inflation-adjusted basis. However, Kristin Forbes - who voted for an increase - left the committee on 30 June.

The benchmark rate had been stable at 0.5% from March 2009 to August 2016, when the MPC chose to reduce it by 25 basis points that month, in the wake of dire survey data following the Brexit vote.

Viraj Patel, a forex and macro strategist at ING, said: "While a bank rate hike today would come as a surprise to markets - and would see a knee-jerk move higher in short-term United Kingdom interest rates and the pound - we think what really matters once the dust settles is the underlying motivation for any BoE tightening".

"The Bank has been in talks with Unite up to and including today and remains ready to continue those talks at any time", a Bank spokesperson said in a statement.

Union official Peter Kavanagh urged the governor of the bank to personally intervene in the dispute, threatening to escalate the industrial action if there was no breakthrough.

The Bank also increased the total amount of cash it is planning to print to support the economy from £545bn to £560bn.

But the push for an interest rate rise was dealt a setback with last month's news of a surprise fall in inflation, to 2.6% in June, down from 2.9% in May.

Furthermore, the Bank cut its annual GDP forecasts for 2017 and 2018 to 1.7% and 1.6% respectively from the previous 1.9% and 1.7%.

It blamed the downgrade on Britain's stubbornly weak productivity and in part on the Brexit uncertainty. As we're now seeing in Europe, markets won't necessarily wait around for the Central Bank to wave the white flag on inflation.

The Bank of England has warned economic growth will remain "sluggish" as it kept interest rates on hold amid a tightening squeeze on family incomes.

Fears have been mounting that as household debt experiences double digit growth, many overstretched households could struggle once rates start to rise and the cost of servicing their debts becomes more expensive. Attempting to offset fully the effect of weaker sterling on inflation would be achievable only at the cost of higher unemployment and, in all likelihood, even weaker income growth.

Bank Of England Holds Rates, Cuts Growth Outlook; Signals Hike