Economy set for post-Brexit vote boost, amid expectation of interest rate cut


The economy is set for a post-Brexit vote boost, amid mounting expectation the Bank of England will cut interest rates today for the first time in more than seven years.

Bank governor Mark Carney has already signalled that policymakers on the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) would vote to slash rates over July or August to shore up the economy after the EU referendum.

Economists at Hargreaves Lansdown said it was "now probable" rates will be cut on Thursday, with financial markets pricing in a reduction from 0.5% to 0.25%.

They said it was possible rates may be lowered further to zero in August, while the Bank is also expected to pump cash into the economy to bolster flagging growth and contain the fallout of the Brexit vote.

It would bring interest rates down to a new historic low and mark the first change since March 2009, when the Bank slashed rates to the all-time emergency low of 0.5% at the height of the financial crisis.

A rate cut would be good news for borrowers, but spell further misery for long-suffering savers.

Ben Brettell, senior economist at Hargeaves Lansdown, said: "Initially August had looked more likely, but with economic data deteriorating and markets still nervous, it now looks probable the MPC will adjudge that immediate action is warranted."

Recent signs for growth have been worrying, with industry surveys for the services sector and the construction industry pointing to a sharp slowdown, with the latter experiencing its worst month in seven years for June.

Mr Carney also said on unveiling the Bank's Financial Stability Report that Brexit risks to the economy had started to "crystallise".

The pound tumbled to fresh 31-year lows last week on the economic gloom, although it has since recovered some of the ground lost.

Brexit jitters have also seen property funds go into lockdown after investors rushed to pull out their money over fears of a collapse in real estate prices.

Mr Carney had indicated only last summer that rates may need to rise "around the turn of the year", but Britain is now facing the reality of zero, or even negative, rates.

Mr Carney has been quick to stress he is personally reluctant to reduce rates lower than 0.25% or into negative territory.

He said in a recent speech: "As we have seen elsewhere, if interest rates are too low or negative, the hit to bank profitability could perversely reduce credit availability or even increase its overall price."

Howard Archer, chief economist at IHS Global Insight, believes the Bank will look to use other monetary policy tools, such as reviving its quantitative easing (QE) programme, as well as cutting rates to 0.25% in either July or August.

"We also suspect that the Bank of England will extend its Funding for Lending scheme and it may very well also return to Quantitative Easing, which has been on hold since November 2012 with the stock of purchases at £375 billion," he said.

The Bank has already unveiled a series of measures to help limit the Brexit blow, relaxing banking rules to boost their lending firepower by up to £150 billion and pledging to pump in at least £250 billion if needed to calm markets in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit decision.

And Chancellor George Osborne has said the Treasury stands ready to expand the Funding for Lending scheme, which offers banks cheap access to finance on the basis that they lend more.