When will the BoE take action on interest rates?

James Trescothick

Who would want to be a member of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) right now?

Your primary role is to meet with your fellow members about eight times a year and together make a grounded decision on what the official interest rate should be in the UK.

Your other responsibility is to keep inflation as close as possible to the target.

If inflation exceeds the current target by more than a percentage point, the Bank of England (BoE) governor Mark Carney has to write an open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer underlining the reason for it missing the target and an action plan to battle it.  

But what do you do when you are unable to use the main tool in your arsenal to combat inflation due to the fear of the unknown?

UK’s current CPI, the main indicator to measure inflation, is currently at 2.9 per cent

The UK’s inflation target since 2016 has been set at 2 per cent, so I am guessing Mr Carney has sent an open letter or two to the current Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond.

On the 3 August, the BoE surprised no-one and kept interest rates the same, but the speculation that we could see an interest rate hike in the immediate future started to diminish. Why is that?

GDP is still growing even if it has been revised slightly down, unemployment is at a 43-year low and a weaker sterling against the euro and US dollar is increasing inflation, so surely now is the time to at least consider raising interest rates.

Instead, the hope for seeing a shock interest rate hike by the BoE has now died down due to the unknown about what is to come with the Brexit negotiations. 

The fear is that companies across the UK are holding back on investments because of concerns about what type of Brexit they will get.  

Though there are still two members of the MPC who voted for a rate hike, other members seem to be stuck between a proverbial rock and a hard place, where they recognise the threat of rising inflation but are far too nervous about the reaction of the UK economy if they do indeed act.

Let’s face it, no-one knows if we are going to get a hard or soft Brexit and the longer there is little progress with UK/EU divorce proceedings, the likelihood of a hard Brexit becomes more real.

With signs of the UK government in disagreement on how to proceed and with the EU playing hard ball, the BOE will simply feel unable to act.

In fact, I expect no interest rate moves for the rest of the year.