The Bank of England (BoE) is expected to leave interest rates and its quantitative easing policy unchanged at the latest meeting of the rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).
Most economists expect serious talk of a rate rise to be reserved until the latter half of the year at least – and the possibility remains of a further cut to the bank rate if the economy reacts badly to the process of leaving the EU.
The BoE has previously stuck to a “neutral bias” on interest rates, with room to move monetary policy either way.
City A.M.’s Shadow MPC has voted in favour of holding rates again, although with a slight shift in bias towards tighter policy.
The last change in monetary policy came in August in response to the Brexit vote, with a cut in the bank rate from 0.5 per cent to 0.25 per cent and an extension of quantitative easing (the asset purchase programme of bond buying) by £60bn in government bonds and £10bn from corporates. Since then the UK economy has proven remarkably resilient.
The Bank may come under increasing pressure to raise interest rates over the coming months as the devaluation of sterling passes through to consumers in the form of higher prices.
At their last monetary policy meeting the Bank predicted inflation to rise to above 2.7 per cent next year, with a consequent slowdown in consumer spending and UK GDP growth.
Chair: Mark Wall – Deutsche Bank
HOLD The Bank is at the limits of tolerating above-target inflation, but there is a case to be made for maintaining the neutral policy bias. The Brexit forecast error may be about to resolve itself as evidence of the real income shock and business relocations begin to appear. The cost of a policy mistake may be asymmetric too. With the latest quantitative easing tranche wrapping up this month, the BoE has all the more reason to proceed slowly as the post-referendum monetary stimulus unwinds.
Kallum Pickering, Berenberg
HOLD But send a strong signal that monetary policy will tighten in the coming months amid strong growth and rising household debt.
James Sproule, Institute of Directors
HIKE Reverse post-Brexit reduction and establish path to normalisation. This will help interest rate spreads to widen, reflecting actual risk and ideally helping the asset bubble to deflate.
Vicky Pryce, CEBR
HOLD Although inflation is rising and GDP data are better than originally forecast, growth remains unbalanced and the risks of a hard Brexit add to the short- and medium-term uncertainty.
Simon Ward, Henderson
HIKE by 25 basis points. The August stimulus package was unnecessary, as monetary trends argued at the time. With GDP, inflation and wage data surprising to the upside, now is the time to start reversing it.
Ross Walker, Natwest Markets
HOLD Higher than expected GDP growth and consumer price index (CPI) inflation outturns probably justify unchanged policy settings, but the medium-term risks for both remain firmly to the downside so I retain an easing bias.
David Stubbs, JP Morgan Asset Management
HOLD Rates should be kept on hold for the time being. There are early signs of weakness in UK consumer data, which make up 60 per cent of UK GDP. Retail sales in December fell 1.9 per cent month-on-month, the biggest decline in four and half years.
Ruth Gregory, Capital Economics
HOLD Next move in interest rates will probably be up. But heightened uncertainty around the economic outlook and little sign of rising domestic inflationary pressures suggests this is some way off.
Simon French, Panmure Gordon
HOLD There are signs of moderation in the unsustainable pace of consumer borrowing. This, alongside Sterling’s recent resilience, means bank policy can remain on hold until more detail is available on Article 50 negotiations and the path of inflation.
Adam Chester, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking
HOLD Rising inflation and the resilience of the economy mean that the case for sustaining last year’s emergency rate cut has weakened. Still, it remains too early to reverse course given the economic uncertainty.