When will interest rates rise and what does it mean for you?

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When will interest rates rise?

To coincide with his first quarterly Inflation Report back in August, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney set out 'forward guidance' on interest rates.



This was designed to bring some stability to both businesses and households by offering some indication of when rates would rise. In a nutshell, we discovered it's predicated on the rate of unemployment hitting 7%, while at the same time inflation is lower than it has been in recent years and there's no looming financial catastrophe. The 7% figure was forecast to be hit in mid- to late-2016.

Since then, the economy has continued to grow and the rate of unemployment has slowly fallen to 7.6%.

So what did November's Inflation Report forecast for the coming years?

Interest rates
The Bank of England is now forecasting the probability of unemployment hitting 7% has greatly increased in the latter half of 2015, as this chart shows.
A graph showing the percentage probability for when the Bank of England Base Rate may rise


















In theory, this presents the Bank's rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) with a dilemma. Does it raise rates contrary to its own guidance or does it hold firm and retain its credibility?

The bank policymakers have been quick to publically dampen talk of an earlier rate rise automatically being triggered when the magic number is hit.

In the Inflation Report it states that "reaching the unemployment threshold would not necessarily trigger an immediate policy response. Rather the setting of policy at that point would depend on the outlook for inflation relative to the target and on the need to provide continued support to output and employment".

And there has been much talk from bank figures in recent weeks about 7% being a 'staging post', rather than a 'trigger'.

Indeed, market expectations for when rates may rise have also retreated from 2014 into 2015, as this graph shows.


a) Reuters poll shows the median economists' expectations of the first rise in Bank Rate. This is based on a survey of economists' responses to the question: 'When do you expect the Bank of England to change rates next?'.

(b) Series is calculated as the first date at which one-month forward UK short-term interest rates (OIS rates) equal or exceed 0.75%.

Meanwhile, the Treasury's monthly collation of independent forecasts also shows the general expectation is rates will remain at 0.5% during 2014.

Inflation
So what about inflation? Here's how annual inflation as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), the Government's favourite measure, has moved over the last three years:

Month/year

Inflation rate

May 2010

3.4%

November 2010

3.3%

May 2011

4.5%

November 2011

4.8%

May 2012

2.8%

November 2012

2.7%

May 2013

2.7%

October 2013

2.2%



You can see from this table that inflation has been consistently higher than the Bank of England's 2% target. However, October's greater-than-expected decrease is better news for our wallets, although this year's inflation-busting energy price rises are one of several darker clouds on this particular horizon.

The Bank of England is forecasting inflation will remain around the 2% mark for the forseeable future. The Treasury's average of independent forecasts isn't quite so bullish, with a forecast of 2.4% for the final quarter of next year.

You can see how inflation affects your own finances by using this calculator.

What this means for our money
For people looking to take out a mortgage or remortgage, the forward guidance is helpful to a point, as it points to longer-term fixed rates being potentially better value if rates do indeed rise in the next couple of years. These have also been getting cheaper, in part thanks to the Funding for Lending scheme. This is designed to stimulate the economy by offering banks and building societies borrowing at lower rates, so long as the money is then lent out to people and businesses.

It's good news for people already enjoying a low variable or tracker rate, as this is set to continue for a while yet. To see the latest mortgage rates, visit our mortgage comparison centre.

It's not good news for savers, and pensioners in particular, with the combination of a likely low Base Rate for the next two years and inflation around 2% meaning rates on savings and annuities will continue to be poor. For a range of cash savings options with different levels of risk and returns, take a look at Where to earn most interest on your cash.

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