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MPS Preview: High for Longer

Bank of England maintains interest rate at 5.25% for fourth consecutive meeting

Bank of England maintains interest rate at 5.25% for fourth consecutive meeting
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February 02, 2024 (MLN): The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) kept the interest rate unchanged at 5.25% for the fourth consecutive meeting, according to a press statement issued by the bank on Thursday.

At its meeting ending on 31 January 2024, the MPC voted by a majority of 6–3 to maintain Bank Rate at 5.25%.

Two members preferred to increase Bank Rate by 0.25 percentage points, to 5.5%. One member preferred to reduce Bank Rate by 0.25 percentage points, to 5%.

The Committee’s updated projections for activity and inflation are set out in the accompanying February Monetary Policy Report.

These are conditioned on a market-implied path for Bank Rate that declines from 5.25% to around 3.25% by the end of the forecast period, almost 1 percentage point lower on average than in the November Report.

Since the MPC’s previous meeting, global GDP growth has remained subdued, although activity continues to be stronger in the United States.

Inflationary pressures are abating across the euro area and the United States. Wholesale energy prices have fallen significantly. Material risks remain from developments in the Middle East and from disruption to shipping through the Red Sea.

Following recent weakness, GDP growth is expected to pick up gradually during the forecast period, in large part reflecting a waning drag on the rate of growth from past increases in Bank Rate. Business surveys are consistent with an improving outlook for activity in the near term.

The labor market has continued to ease but remains tight by historical standards. In the February Report projections, despite subdued supply growth by historical standards, the continuing relative weakness of demand leads to a margin of economic slack emerging during the first half of the forecast period.

Unemployment is expected to rise somewhat further.

Twelve-month CPI inflation fell to 4% in December 2023, below expectations in the November Report.

This downside news has been broad-based, reflecting lower fuel, core goods and services price inflation. Although still elevated, wage growth has eased across several measures and is projected to decline further in the coming quarters.

“CPI inflation is projected to fall temporarily to the 2% target in 2024 Q2 before increasing again in Q3 and Q4,” the statement added.

This profile of inflation over the second half of the year is accounted for by developments in the direct energy price contribution to 12-month inflation, which becomes less negative.

In the MPC’s latest most likely, or modal, projection conditioned on the lower market-implied path for Bank Rate, CPI inflation is around 2.75% by the end of this year. It then remains above target over nearly all of the remainder of the forecast period.

This reflects the persistence of domestic inflationary pressures, despite an increasing degree of slack in the economy.

CPI inflation is projected to be 2.3% in two years’ time and 1.9% in three years.

The Committee judges that the risks around its modal CPI inflation projection are skewed to the upside over the first half of the forecast period, stemming from geopolitical factors.

It now judges that the risks from domestic price and wage pressures are more evenly balanced, meaning that, unlike in previous forecasts, there is no difference between the MPC’s modal and mean projections at the two and three-year horizons.

Conditioned on the alternative assumption of constant interest rates at 5.25%, the path for CPI inflation is significantly lower than in the Committee’s modal projection conditioned on the declining path of market rates, falling below the 2% target from 2025 Q4 onwards.

The MPC’s remit is clear that the inflation target applies at all times, reflecting the primacy of price stability in the UK monetary policy framework.

The framework recognizes that there will be occasions when inflation will depart from the target as a result of shocks and disturbances. Monetary policy will ensure that CPI inflation returns to the 2% target sustainably in the medium term.

At this meeting, the Committee voted to maintain Bank Rate at 5.25%. Headline CPI inflation has fallen back relatively sharply.

The restrictive stance of monetary policy is weighing on activity in the real economy and is leading to a looser labour market.

In the Committee’s February forecast, the risks to inflation are more balanced. Although services price inflation and wage growth have fallen by somewhat more than expected, key indicators of inflation persistence remain elevated.

As a result, monetary policy will need to remain restrictive for sufficiently long to return inflation to the 2% target sustainably in the medium term in line with the MPC’s remit.

The Committee has judged since last autumn that monetary policy needs to be restrictive for an extended period of time until the risk of inflation becoming embedded above the 2% target dissipates.

The MPC remains prepared to adjust monetary policy as warranted by economic data to return inflation to the 2% target sustainably.

 It will therefore continue to monitor closely indications of persistent inflationary pressures and resilience in the economy as a whole, including a range of measures of the underlying tightness of labour market conditions, wage growth and services price inflation.

On that basis, the Committee will keep under review for how long Bank Rate should be maintained at its current level.

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Posted on: 2024-02-02T12:42:47+05:00