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Bank of England set to keep interest rates on hold yet again

By Holly Williams

Published 03/02/2016

The Bank of England is not expected to change interest rates
The Bank of England is not expected to change interest rates

The Bank of England will unveil its latest economic forecasts tomorrow and is set to keep interest rates on hold once more as stock market turmoil and the oil price rout show no sign of abating.

It will publish its quarterly inflation report, as well as this month's decision on rates and minutes disclosing how members of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted.

The "Super Thursday" flurry of economic releases will be scoured for further clues on when interest rates will rise, with experts predicting they may now remain on hold until 2017.

Darkening gloom over the global economy and ongoing pressure on the cost of crude oil is also widely expected to see the Bank cut its forecasts for UK growth and inflation, the latter of which ticked up to 0.2% in December.

Governor Mark Carney has already kicked the prospect of a hike into the long grass with his recent speech, confirming that "now is not yet the time" to raise rates from their historic low of 0.5% - where they have remained since March 2009.

In a U-turn on his earlier prediction that a rate rise would come into sharper relief at the turn of the year, he said any such move would instead "depend on economic prospects, not the calendar".

Some economists have even mooted the idea of a possible rate cut should economic conditions worsen markedly, particularly after Japan recently reduced its borrowing rate.

Philip Shaw, economist at Investec, said: "It would also be interesting to know what weight, if any, the MPC places on a prospect on a reduction in the Bank rate."

The MPC is likely to vote 8-1 again to hold rates, with Ian McCafferty remaining the sole dissenter - calling for a rise to 0.75%.

Closely-watched surveys from the services, manufacturing and construction sectors this week have suggested a steady performance so far from the economy in 2016.

Official figures last week showed growth edging up to 0.5% in the fourth quarter of 2015 from 0.4% in the previous three months, but falling to 2.2% overall for 2015 from 2.9% in 2014.

The Bank will lower its forecasts that were given in the November report, with the minutes of the January rates meeting already revealing it has cut its outlook for gross domestic product (GDP) by 0.1 percentage points to 0.5% for the first quarter of 2016.

The Bank of England predicted GDP growth at 2.5% in 2016, 2.7% in 2017 and 2.6% in 2018 back in November, but this looks difficult to achieve.

Allan Monks, expert at JP Morgan Chase, said: "A lot has changed since the Bank published its November Inflation Report."

He added the report is set to be "dominated by a discussion of the global economy, low inflation, risks from the recent turbulence in financial markets and by the fact that the Government's decision as to when to hold the UK's Brexit referendum is coming into sharper relief".

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