BoE Leaves Rates at Record Low of 0.5%


The Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee voted unanimously to maintain the Bank Rate at 0.5 percent and leave the stock of purchased assets at £375 billion on May 12th, 2016 as widely expected. The Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee voted unanimously to maintain the Bank Rate at 0.5 percent and leave the stock of purchased assets at £375 billion on May 12th, 2016 as widely expected. Policymakers lowered growth forecasts, saying there are increasing signs that uncertainty associated with the EU referendum has begun to weigh on activity but left inflation projections roughly unchanged.

GDP growth is expected to slow to 0.3 percent in the second quarter of the year (0.5 percent in the previous estimate), bringing full 2016 forecast down by 20bps to 2 percent. For 2017 and 2018, growth outlook was reduced by 10bps to 2.3 percent. Regarding inflation, policymakers left 2016 projection steady at 0.4 percent.

Excerpts from the Monetary Policy Summary:

Globally, sentiment in financial markets has improved. There has been a broad-based recovery in risky asset prices, a resumption of capital flows to emerging market economies, and a sharp rise in the price of oil. Near-term prospects for China and other emerging market economies have improved a little, although medium-term downside risks remain. In the advanced economies, growth has picked up in the euro area in Q1 but slowed in the United States. A modest pace of growth in the United Kingdom’s main trading partners is likely over the forecast period, broadly similar to that in the February Inflation Report projections. 

In the United Kingdom, activity growth slowed in Q1 and a further deceleration is expected in Q2. There are increasing signs that uncertainty associated with the EU referendum has begun to weigh on activity.

Given the outlook described in the May Inflation Report projections, returning inflation to the 2% target requires achieving a balance between the drag on inflation from external factors and the support from gradual increases in domestic cost growth. 

Consistent with the projections and conditioning assumptions set out in the May Inflation Report, the MPC judges that it is more likely than not that Bank Rate will need to be higher by the end of the forecast period than at present to ensure inflation returns to the target in a sustainable manner. All members agree that, given the likely persistence of the headwinds weighing on the economy, when Bank Rate does begin to rise, it is expected to do so more gradually and to a lower level than in recent cycles. This guidance is an expectation, not a promise. The actual path Bank Rate will follow over the next few years will depend on economic circumstances. With macroeconomic and financial indicators likely to be less informative than usual in light of the referendum, the Committee is currently reacting more cautiously to data releases than would normally be the case.

The most significant risks to the MPC’s forecast concern the referendum.  A vote to leave the EU could materially alter the outlook for output and inflation, and therefore the appropriate setting of monetary policy. Households could defer consumption and firms delay investment, lowering labour demand and causing unemployment to rise. At the same time, supply growth is likely to be lower over the forecast period, reflecting slower capital accumulation and the need to reallocate resources. Sterling is also likely to depreciate further, perhaps sharply. This combination of influences on demand, supply and the exchange rate could lead to a materially lower path for growth and a notably higher path for inflation than in the central projections set out in the May Inflation Report. In such circumstances, the MPC would face a trade-off between stabilising inflation on the one hand and output and employment on the other. The implications for the direction of monetary policy will depend on the relative magnitudes of the demand, supply and exchange rate effects. Whatever the outcome of the referendum and its consequences, the MPC will take whatever action is needed to ensure that inflation expectations remain well anchored and inflation returns to the target over the appropriate horizon. 

BoE | Joana Taborda | joana.taborda@tradingeconomics.com
5/12/2016 12:44:49 PM