June Interest Rate Decision

An increase in interest rates could be nearer than anyone thought!

Thursday’s meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Bank of England was expected to be a non-event. A Reuters poll of economists revealed that not one expected a move in base rates from the 0.25% set in the wake of the Brexit vote last year. They were all proved right, but…

Of the eight MPC members, three external members voted for a rate increase. It was the first time since 2011 that there had been three votes for a rate rise – and that was when the MPC had nine members. The 3-5 vote was a shock to the market and gave a brief boost to sterling.

The Bank’s statement noted that “CPI inflation has been pushed above the 2% target by the impact of last year’s sterling depreciation.  It reached 2.9% in May, above the MPC’s expectation.  Inflation could rise above 3% by the autumn, and is likely to remain above the target for an extended period as sterling’s depreciation continues to feed through into the prices of consumer goods and services.  The 2½% fall in the exchange rate since the May Inflation Report, if sustained, will add to that imported inflationary impetus.” That concern about over-target inflation seems to have been the reason why the trio voted for a 0.25% rate increase, despite recent evidence that growth is slowing.

One of those voting for the increase, Kristin Forbes, was attending her last MPC meeting. The election hiatus means that her replacement has not yet been chosen. Neither has a replacement been named for Charlotte Hogg, the deputy governor who resigned in the wake of a grilling from the Treasury Select Committee. In theory Mr Hammond could name two new members in time for 3 August’s MPC meeting, changing the voting mix significantly. Even so, yesterday’s general assumption among commentators that rates would not rise until 2019 is now probably consigned to history. 

Across the pond, the US Federal Reserve increased its main short term rate by another 0.25% on Wednesday, taking it to a 1.00%-1.25% range. The Fed also set out the first steps to unwinding its bloated $4.2trn balance sheet, the result of its quantitative easing programme. The Bank of England still looks a long way behind…

 
 
 

Lexington Wealth Management