Bank of England expected to hold interest rates despite inflation tumbling – live


Andrew Bailey, governor of the Bank of England, is keen to get inflation down to a 2 per cent target

(AFP or licensors)

The Bank of England is expected to maintain current interest rates in an announcement on Thursday, despite a fall in inflation.

Inflation fell to 3.4 per cent in February – down from 4 per cent in January and the lowest since September 2021, when it was 3.1 per cent.

The positive news on Wednesday comes ahead of the BoE’s latest interest rate decision at noon, with policymakers widely expected to keep rates on hold at 5.25 per cent.

In February when the group met, only one of them, Swati Dhingra, voted to cut rates, two voted for a rise, but the rest said they should stay at 5.25%.

Robert Wood, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said he expects the same vote this time.

The BoE said in February that it expects inflation to fall back to its target of two per cent between April and June this year, about 18 months earlier than it previously forecast.

Rishi Sunak has been buoyed by the inflation drop with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt hinting the improved economic picture could result in pre-election tax cuts and reductions in interest rates.

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What are interest rates?

An interest rate is a measure that tells you how high the cost of borrowing money is, or how high the rewards of saving are.

If you are borrowing money, typically from a bank, the interest rate on that money is the amount you will be charged for borrowing it.

It is a charge on top of the total amount of the loan and will be shown as a percentage of the overall.

Higher percentages mean paying more money to the lender for borrowing the money.

If you are saving money in a bank account, the interest rate on that money is the amount you will accrue on top of your savings. Banks will pay you a percentage of your total savings, typically at the end of the year.

Sam Rkaina21 March 2024 06:30

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Direction of travel ‘encouraging’

The direction of travel for UK inflation is certainly encouraging and supports the case for a policy easing in the near future,” said Ellie Henderson, an analyst at Investec.

“Our base case is for a first interest rate reduction in June.

“Furthermore, it is not just about actual inflation, expectations play a strong part too.

“As inflation expectations fall, but the nominal policy rate remains constant, the real rate of interest rises, resulting in a tightening in monetary policy, without the Bank actually changing its stance.

“The MPC will have that in mind when deciding on the appropriate time to cut interest rates.

“But for the meeting tomorrow, today’s inflation numbers do not change our view, first set out in our preview, that the MPC is likely to convey the message that it has an eye on easing policy rates this year, but the hurdle to do so has not yet been overcome.”

Sam Rkaina21 March 2024 05:30

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‘Data will not move the needle’

“We do not think the data will move the needle for the BoE meeting ,” said Matthew Swannell, Dani Stoilova and Gerardo Martinez at BNP Paribas.

“One area of the focus will be the vote split, with the largest uncertainty around whether hawk Jonathan Haskel changes his vote from a 25bp (base point) vote hike to a hold.

“By his own admission, his February vote for a hike was ‘finely balanced’, so it is difficult to call how he will vote tomorrow.

“Our expectation is that despite the BoE’s core services inflation dropping in February – which it would seem Haskel attaches some weight to – he will need further evidence of its being on a downwards trajectory before adjusting his vote. We expect an unchanged vote split.”

That would mean that only one of the nine-person committee is likely to think that conditions are right for a cut.

Economists generally agree that cuts to the interest rate will come later this year – the Bank has signalled as much recently too – but they are less sure when the cuts will come.

Sam Rkaina21 March 2024 04:30

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What inflation fall means for mortgages

For Rob Morgan, chief investment analyst at Charles Stanley, mortgages and other forms of borrowing are not directly impacted by inflation.

“But many products are affected by expectations for the Bank of England base rate, which is influenced by it,” said Morgan.

“Recently, lenders have been increasing rates a little, after hopes of an earlier string of interest rate cuts receded. Today’s figures do little to move those expectations as they are already baked into market rates. However, if inflation remains on a downward trajectory and interest cuts arrive later this year as predicted, then borrowing costs should come down a little. Any falls will be modest compared to the steep rise since early 2022, though.”

Lakhani added: “Lower interest rates would be good news for mortgage holders, whether they have a variable or tracker mortgage, or are having to remortgage this year.

“Higher mortgage rates, which are influenced by the base rate expectations, have been hitting mortgage holders hard. The quoted monthly interest rate on a 2-year fixed mortgage loan to value (LTV) 75% was 1.64% in January 2022.

“The quoted mortgage rate for the same type of product two years later is 4.73%. For a 25-year £200,000 mortgage, that means an extra payment of £325 per month (£1,138 vs £813), a major increase.”

Sam Rkaina21 March 2024 03:30

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What exactly the fall in inflation means for your money

Rajan Lakhani, personal finance expert at smart money app Plum, explains that inflation measures the pace at which the price of goods and services in the UK is rising.

“The ONS looks at price changes over the previous 12 months to calculate inflation. [But] the key thing to remember with inflation is when inflation is falling, like today’s announcement, that doesn’t mean prices have fallen. It just means on average prices are rising less quickly,” Lakhani said.

“For example, the ONS would measure the price of items in February 2023 and what it is in February 2024.”

Sam Rkaina21 March 2024 02:30

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Average UK house price £2,000 lower in January than a year earlier

The average UK house price fell by an estimated 0.6% in the year to January 2024, according to an index.

This took the average price of a home in the UK to £282,000, which was £2,000 lower than 12 months earlier.

It followed a decrease of 2.2% in the 12 months to December 2023, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

In the 12 months to January 2024, average house prices decreased in England to £299,000 (down by 1.5%), decreased in Wales to £213,000 (falling by 0.8%), and increased in Scotland to £190,000 (up by 4.8%).

Average house prices increased by 1.4% to £178,000 in the year to the fourth quarter of 2023 in Northern Ireland.

Within the English regions, annual house price inflation was highest in the North West, where prices increased by 1.0% in the 12 months to January.

London was the English region with the lowest house price annual inflation, with prices falling by 3.9% in the 12 months to January.

Sam Rkaina21 March 2024 01:30

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The Independent view: Rachel Reeves still has much explaining to do

Inflation is dropping towards the official 2 per cent annual target; the economy may well be out of its shallow recession by now; more tax cuts are on the way. But the voters are no longer listening. They made their minds up long ago.

The reasons for the Tory defeat will mostly not be found in what happens over the next few months, but what has happened in the last few years – and, indeed, since the first Conservative-dominated administration was formed in 2010. Change feels inevitable.

Sam Rkaina21 March 2024 00:30

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Lack of supply causing rent rises

Luke Murphy, associate director for infrastructure and housing at the ippr, told The Independent the UK housing market’s structural problem of a lack of supply is still the primary driver in rent increases.

“It’s a fundamental issue of supply, we have not been building enough homes for decades and that’s all kind of homes. It’s not just about the number, it’s about building many more genuinely affordable social homes.

“Our analysis shows there is a four million homes shortage over a decade and we are nowhere near building the number of affordable homes that we need. And that’s having the impact on rents we are seeing.”

Cara Pacitti, Senior Economist at the Resolution Foundation, said that the average rent in the UK is now a fifth higher than pre-pandemic in February 2020.

“With inflation falling and earnings growth cooling we can expect some better news on the horizon, and indeed market data on rental prices for new tenancies has seen slower growth in recent months. However, even if we begin to see rental price growth cooling, private renting will still remain by far the least affordable, least secure and lowest quality housing tenure.”

Sam Rkaina20 March 2024 23:30

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UK rents skyrocket at fastest rate on record as tenants hit by ‘cost of renting crisis’

The average monthly rent in the UK is now £1,238, which is £102 higher than 12 months ago.

However, average house prices decreased by 0.6 per cent in the 12 months to January 2024. In England, they decreased by 1.5 per cent as they also did in Wales by 0.8 per cent, but increased in Scotland by 4.8 per cent.

Sam Rkaina20 March 2024 22:33

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Surprise inflation drop could mean cheaper mortgages for home owners by the summer

UK inflation has fallen back to 3.4 per cent, the lowest level in more than two and a half years, boosting hopes that the Bank of England could look to cut interest rates in the summer.

The larger-than-forecast decline is a significant boon for Rishi Sunak, who made reducing inflation one of his key economic pledges. Getting inflation down to 2 per cent is also a key target for the Bank.

This is the lowest level inflation has been at since September 2021. Despite inflation falling it does not mean that prices are falling, only that they are rising at a slower pace.

(PA)

Sam Rkaina20 March 2024 21:34



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