The Bank of England (BoE) raised interest rates by an additional 0.25% on June 16 but insisted that it was ready to act ‘forcefully’ to eliminate any dangers posed by an inflation rate that is heading over 11%.
Just a day after the United States Federal Reserve raised rates by the most figure since 1994 with a 0.75% hike, the BoE stuck to its more gradual strategy as it warned that the British economy would shrink in the April-June period.
The 9-strong Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted 6-3 for the 25 basis-point hike in Bank Rate to 1.25%. It used the same breakdown as in May with the minority of the voters favoring a 50 basis-point increase.
Notably, the British benchmark rate is now at its highest since January 2009. It was the fifth time that the BoE has raised borrowing costs since December when it became the first leading central bank to tighten monetary policy after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, some of the critics say that it is moving very slowly to stop the rise in inflation from becoming entrenched in pay deals and some inflation expectations, damaging the entire economy in the long term. The BoE stated:
“The scale, pace and timing of any further increases in Bank Rate will reflect the Committee’s assessment of the economic outlook and inflationary pressures. The Committee will be particularly alert to indications of more persistent inflationary pressures, and will if necessary act forcefully in response.”
The Bank of England dropped its guidance in May when it stated that most MPC members thought:
“Some degree of further tightening in monetary policy may still be appropriate in the coming months”.
Committee members Jonathan Haskel, Catherine Mann, and Michael Saunders favored a bigger, 50 basis-point increase, the same way they did in May.
Economists polled had projected a 6-3 vote to raise rates to 1.25% but the investors increased their bets on a bigger move in recent days, with the sterling pound dropping against the US dollar and after reports that the Fed was considering its rare 0.75% move.
The BoE noted that the market path for British interest rates had surged materially since the meeting last month, although there had been relatively little news on the matter since then.
Central banks globally are striving to show that they can contain inflation which is reaching levels not seen in decades, pushed mainly by the reopening of the global economy after the Coronavirus pandemic and then by Russia invading Ukraine.
As well the Federal Reserve’s move on Wednesday, last week the European Central Bank (ECB) stated that it would push up borrowing costs next month for the first time since 2011 and would do so again in September, possibly by 0.50%.
Earlier on June 16, the Swiss National Bank raised its policy interest rate for the first time in 15 years by half a percentage point in a surprise move and Hungary’s central bank also unexpectedly increased its one-week deposit rate.
The Bank of England is raising rates although it warned of a steep slowdown ahead for Britain’s economy. British consumer price inflation reached a 40-year high of 9% in April 2022, over four times the BoE’s 2% target, and the central bank on June 16 raised its projection to show it peaking slightly over 11% in October when energy bills move up once more.
Britain’s surge in inflation seems set to last longer than most of the other economies, partially because of the delayed impact of its mechanism for domestic power tariffs and also due to the hit to trade from the nation’s departure from the EU.
A severe lack of workers to fill vacancies is quite worrying to the BoE since it may lead to a spike in wages and turn the inflation surge into a long-lasting problem. A drop in the value of the pound in recent weeks, caused mainly by the surge in interest rate expectations in the US and the Eurozone, threatens to add to the pressure of inflation in Britain.
The Bank of England said sterling had been “particularly weak against the U.S. dollar”.
Furthermore, it downgraded its near-term projections for Britain’s economy, saying it would shrink by about 0.3% in the April-June period. It had projected in May that there would be 0.1% growth within the three months.
The projection for a contraction in growth in the current quarter came despite the latest measures confirmed in late May by finance minister Rishi Sunak to assist households hit by the spike in inflation. The BoE stated that the measures could enhance economic output by 0.3% and increase inflation by 0.1 percentage points in the first year.
Notably, the next scheduled announcement by the MPC is on August 4.