Surprise Rate Increase Amid High Inflation Concerns
In a surprising move, the Bank of England raised interest rates by half a percentage point on Thursday. This decision comes after the bank detected "significant" signs indicating the UK's persistent inflation issue may take longer to decline than initially anticipated.
Record Interest Rate and Concerns Over Inflation Control
The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) at the Bank of England voted 7-2 for this increase, lifting the main interest rate from 4.5% to 5%. This move marks the highest rate since 2008 and its most significant jump since February, in response to more stubborn inflation and wage growth since the last policymakers' meeting in May.
Bailey's Take on Inflation and Rate Hike
Governor Andrew Bailey defended the move, noting that although the economy performs better than anticipated, the rate of inflation remains too high. He stressed the importance of addressing this issue promptly to avoid more severe consequences later.
Market Reactions and Future Predictions
The market reacted to this unexpected change, with Sterling briefly rising against the U.S. dollar. However, there is growing concern about a possible recession, indicated by the significant inversion of the two- to 10-year yield curve. Economists and investors now foresee a potential rate increase of as high as 6%.
Bank of England's Communication and Criticism
Critics expressed surprise at the rate increase as BoE policymakers had given little indication that such a move was under consideration. Some MPC members objected to the decision, arguing that the effects of previous tightening are yet to fully materialize.
Political Tension Around Inflation
The ongoing inflation problem presents a significant challenge for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has pledged to halve the pace of price growth before the 2024 national election. Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt supported the BoE's actions, declaring inflation control as an immediate priority.
Implications for the UK Economy
Despite the economic shocks from Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic, and increased gas prices due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the UK economy has so far avoided a predicted recession in 2023. However, the output is still struggling to return to pre-pandemic levels, with growth projections set at a minimal 0.25% for the year.
Bailey's Stance on Wage Growth and Price Increase
Bailey considers the rate increase "absolutely imperative" for inflation control and warns businesses against continuous price increases. His view, unpopular among politicians and trade unions, highlights the unsustainability of the current wage growth.
A Global Trend: Rate Increases Across Europe
Bank of England's move follows a global trend, with the European Central Bank, Swiss, and Norwegian central banks also announcing rate increases. Joachim Nagel, President of the Bundesbank, described inflation as a "greedy beast," while the US Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell hinted at further rate rises.
BoE's Future Policy and Inflation Forecast
BoE maintains its previous guidance on future policy, asserting more tightening in monetary policy would be required if persistent pressures are detected. The bank will closely monitor the impact of higher rates on mortgage and rental costs. It also expects inflation to drop to just over 5% by the end of this year, anticipating it to fall below the 2% target by early 2025.