Bank of England expected to hold interest rates at 0.25%


The Bank of England is expected to keep interest rates on hold on Thursday following better-than-expected economic growth in the months since the EU referendum.

Economists predict the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) will hold rates at 0.25% - having been cut to the record low in August as part of a post-Brexit stimulus package worth up to £170 billion.

While MPC minutes from the Bank's September meeting suggested another cut was on the cards later this year, better-than-expected third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 0.5% may have quashed plans for further easing.

Howard Archer, chief European and UK economist at IHS Markit, said: "We had envisaged a spirited discussion within the MPC and very likely a split vote - probably in favour of no change in policy.

"However, resilient UK GDP growth of 0.5% quarter on quarter in the third quarter has highly likely ensured that the Bank of England will be sitting tight on monetary policy on Thursday and into 2017."

The Bank's latest forecasts are due to be published in its quarterly inflation report, which will be released alongside its interest rate decision, and will be scoured for signs that fears of recession have been put to rest.

Kallum Pickering, a senior UK economist at Berenberg, noted that other key data has also surprised to the upside in recent weeks.

"Labour market conditions have remained healthy, sentiment in the housing market has improved after a mid-year dip and private sector credit conditions have remained at pre-referendum levels," he said.

The closely-watched Markit/CIPS UK Construction purchasing managers' index (PMI) released this week showed a reading of 52.6 in October - the fastest growth in activity since March and up from 52.3 in September.

Given the latest figures, the Bank is likely to revise up its GDP growth forecasts for both 2016 and 2017, and nudge up inflation expectations after consumer prices jumped 1% in September amid rising clothes and fuel costs.

The weak pound is widely expected to drive up import costs and eventually feed through to consumer prices, following a near 20% fall against the US dollar and 15% drop against the euro since the Brexit vote in June.

Updated forecasts from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) predict that inflation will soar to 4% in late 2017, as the pound plunges further following the triggering of Article 50.

Key policymakers including governor Mark Carney have suggested the Bank might allow inflation to overshoot its 2% target if it is driven by sterling weakness, though it is not clear by how much.

NIESR said it believes the Bank of England would now hold interest rates at 0.25% until the second half of 2019.

Separately, Mr Carney is expected to face questions regarding his decision to step down as governor in June 2019 - two years short of a full eight year term.

The governor faced mounting speculation that he was preparing to stand down early amid complaints he went too far in warning of the economic dangers of leaving the EU in order to bolster Remain during the referendum campaign.

But in his letter to the Chancellor on Monday evening, Mr Carney said he decided to stay on until 2019 because he recognised "the importance to the country of continuity during the UK's Article 50 negotiations" - though analysts now say his departure will come at a trying time for the UK economy.