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Bank of England, seeking digital boost, sets up its own fintech hub

26 March 2018, 01:10 | Ivan Casey

Bank of England holds fire on interest rate

Bank keeps rates on hold as fears grow of May hike

The Bank of England kept interest rates steady on Thursday but two policymakers unexpectedly voted for a hike, reinforcing the view among economists that borrowing costs will rise in May for only the second time since the 2008 financial crisis.

Ben Brettell, senior economist at Hargreaves Lansdown said that while the decision to leave interest rates unchanged was expected "what wasn't expected was two committee members breaking consensus and voting for an immediate rise to 0.75 per cent".

The Bank said these policymakers believed a "modest tightening of monetary policy at this meeting could mitigate the risks from a more sustained period of above-target inflation that might ultimately necessitate a more abrupt change in policy and hence a greater adjustment in growth and employment".

The bank's Monetary Policy Committee is set to unanimously back unchanged policy, but it will likely set the path for a rate hike in May.

The Bank has been paving the way for a rate rise, but must tread lightly until there is richer evidence of growing inflationary pressures, to avoid unnecessarily placing a speed bump in the way of economic activity'. However, lawmakers Ian McCafferty and Michael Saunders said economic conditions meant that time was ripe for rates to increase, prompting speculation that a rise will be on the cards in May this year.

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The latest Pound to Australian Dollar gains have been partly enabled by rising optimism about today's Bank of England (BoE) interest rate decision.

Even though average weekly earnings figures bettered forecast in the three months to January it remains to be seen whether this will actually encourage consumers to start spending more.

Inflation is expected to ease further in the short term although to remain above the 2% target.

The BoE said this had boosted sterling.

Economists and investors believe the next increase from the BOE could come as soon as May.

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The BoE's decision follows the Federal Reserve's 21 March announcement it would raise United States interest rates by 25bps in Jerome Powell's first meeting as chairman since taking over from Janet Yellen.

Some economists think data earlier this week showing a bigger-than-expected drop in inflation to 2.7 percent suggests the BoE is too gloomy, and will remove the need for the BoE to raise rates a few times this year.

One major stumbling block to a May rate rise was removed this week when Prime Minister Theresa May agreed a 21-month transition deal with the European Union.

In a speech given at HMT's International Fintech Conference yesterday, the Bank of England's deputy governor, Dave Ramsden, said the Hub will be a central point of contact for the fintech sector to engage with the Bank. "This provides increasing confidence that growth in wages and unit labour costs will pick up to target-consistent rates".

He warned that falling inflation would "make little difference to the monetary policy outlook and we expect this week's meeting to prepare the ground for the MPC to hike rates again in May".

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