Bank of England leaves rates on hold amid Brexit uncertainty
The Bank of England has left interest rates on hold at 0.75% as expected but flagged “greater uncertainty” around the Brexit negotiations.
The Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted 9-0 to leave rates unchanged.
A quarter of a percentage point rise last month took rates to the highest level since March 2009.
The European Central Bank also kept eurozone interest rates unchanged at 0% on Thursday.
The MPC said in the minutes of its September meeting there were mounting fears about the UK leaving with the EU without a deal agreed.
“Since the committee’s previous meeting, there had been indications, most prominently in financial markets, of greater uncertainty about future developments in the withdrawal process,” it said.
The Bank’s regional staff reported that businesses were cracking down on costs and holding back on investment ahead of Brexit.
However, it raised the forecast for UK economic growth in the third quarter from 0.4% to 0.5%, partly due to stronger consumer spending over the unusually warm summer.
The MPC flagged heightened risks to global growth following trade tensions between the US and China and turbulence in some emerging markets.
Sterling was flat at $1.3051 and €1.1221 after the decision was announced.
The minutes showed recent rises in economic and wages growth had not affected the MPC’s commitment to “gradual” and “limited” rate rises in the coming years, said Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Macroeconomics.
Ruth Gregory at Capital Economics said expected two rate rises next year and another two in 2020, bringing rates to 1.75%, assuming a Brexit deal was struck and the economy held up well.
“That would be above the market expectation for just two hikes over the next three years – but still consistent with the MPC’s guidance,” she said.
Ben Brettell at Hargreaves Lansdown said: “Policymakers are firmly in ‘wait-and-see’ mode having raised rates last month, and will be reluctant to even consider another move until they have a clear idea of what Brexit will look like.
“Realistically May next year looks the first available opportunity to raise rates to 1%.”
Last month the Bank signalled that rates would need to rise by about 0.25 percentage points over the next two or three years to bring inflation, which stands at 2.5%, back to target.
September’s MPC minutes also revealed that the recent energy price cap announced by Ofgem would reduce inflation by more than expected over the course of 2019.