BOE Keeps Interest Rate on Hold as Inflation Seen Cooling Faster

Mark Carney

"With a May rise in rates looking like a formality in April, the recent turnaround has proven that the outlook remains constantly uncertain and whether to raise continues to be a tricky decision for the Bank of England".

"Taking external and domestic influences together, CPI inflation is projected to fall back slightly more quickly than in February, reaching the target in two years", the report said. Competition among challenger banks, in combination with higher SWAP rates, appears to be fuelling this rise.

"The MPC continues to judge that the United Kingdom economy has a very limited degree of slack", the minutes said, noting that hiring intentions had remained strong and the jobless rate had continued to fall despite the sluggish growth in the first quarter of 2018.

"This report wasn't a great advert for clarity in central bank communication".

Minutes of the Bank's latest monetary policy committee meeting said rates were held at 0.5 per cent as members wanted to "discern whether the softness in the first quarter might persist". That matters as the Bank of England's primary mission is get inflation close to 2 percent.

The stay of execution means the cost of borrowing on mortgages and other loans - as well as the interest on savings, should remain the same for another few months - but the eventual direction is still expected to be up. In the year to March, annual consumer price inflation was 2.5 percent, well below the bank's projection of nearly 3 percent.

The Inflation Report also showed that about one quarter-point hike a year will be needed to return inflation to the goal after the first increase in a decade last November. The reason is that the bank anticipates that the effect from the past sterling weakness is fading faster than previously thought.

Even those predicting rates will increase this year see a shrinking pool of opportunities. Well, rate hike odds for August were above 50% yesterday, now they have diminished and the market doesn't believe anymore that we will see a rate hike this year at all.

The dire performance saw the Bank downgrade its 2018 growth forecast to 1.4%, from 1.8% predicted in February, though forecasts remained unchanged at 1.7% in 2019 and 2020.

Dovish BoE Growth Forecasts Weigh Heavily on Pound Exchange RatesEven though two BoE policymakers voted in favour of an immediate interest rate hike this was not enough to prevent GBP exchange rates sliding lower on Thursday. The fixed rate market has had the largest boost, with competition among newer banks and higher swap rates fuelling the rise.

But the Bank's quarterly forecasts revealed there was some doubt around the underlying economic picture in the United Kingdom, clouded by the recent weather impact, with the Bank noting "greater-than-usual uncertainty" over consumer spending.

On the news, sterling fell 0.6% to $1.352 and 0.2% to €1.142 while the FTSE 100 spiked 0.4% to 7,673 points. The economy grew by just 0.1 percent quarter-on-quarter, markedly below the Bank of England's forecast of around 0.4 percent.

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