Belfast Telegraph

Bank marks half a decade of record low interest rates

By Holly Williams

Half a decade of record low interest rates were marked yesterday as the Bank of England once more kept the cost of borrowing on hold.

The five-year anniversary of the monetary policy committee's (MPC) decision to slash rates to the historic low of 0.5% comes amid protests outside the Bank of England by campaign group Save Our Savers, at the impact the ultra-low rates have had on savings pots.

Returns on savings have been slashed, costing depositors of UK banks and building societies £326.3bn over the past five years, according to the group – although many mortgage borrowers have found themselves hundreds or even thousands of pounds better off than they might otherwise have been.

But the latest decision follows a flurry of recent comments from members of the MPC, signalling that rates may rise next year as the economic recovery picks up pace.

It is also the first decision since the bank abandoned its "forward guidance" pledge linking the cost of borrowing to unemployment figures.

The new version – dubbed 'fuzzy guidance' – will see its decisions on interest rates instead based on how quickly the economy uses up its spare capacity.

The bank said then that it would give no timing on when interest rates would rise, although market expectations are for this to happen in the second quarter of 2015 – keeping the bank on track to leave inflation close to 2%.

It has also stressed that when rates rise, the increase will be gradual.

Howard Archer, chief economist at IHS Global Insight, predicted that rates would reach 1% by the end of 2015 and 2% by the end of 2016. Policymakers have repeatedly stressed that while the recovery is moving in the right direction, they want to see the overall economy become more balanced.

There was some encouraging news last week, when a breakdown of gross domestic product for the fourth quarter of 2013 revealed a surge in business investment, suggesting the economy is becoming less reliant on consumer spending.

Belfast Telegraph

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