Bank of England set to raise rates to 4.75 per cent
Inflation and wage growth running faster than expected
Governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey (Photo by Frank Augstein / POOL / AFP) (Photo by FRANK AUGSTEIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
THE BANK OF ENGLAND looks set to raise interest rates by a quarter point to a 15-year high of 4.75 per cent on June 22, its 13th straight rate rise as it fights unexpectedly sticky inflation that risks making it a global outlier.
Investors this week bet the Bank of England might hike rates as high as six per cent this year – well above where the US Federal Reserve or the European Central Bank are expected to go, and a level not seen in Britain since 2000.
BoE Governor Andrew Bailey told a parliament committee on Tuesday (13) that inflation was taking “a lot longer than expected” to come down and the labour market was “very tight”.
Bailey was speaking just after official figures showed basic pay in the three months to April rose by an annual 7.2 per cent – the fastest on record, excluding periods where the data was distorted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
While pay is still falling when adjusted for inflation, these numbers caused markets to ramp up their bets on BoE rate hikes, and pushed two-year government bond yields to their highest since 2008.
Three weeks earlier, there was a similar sharp move after data showed consumer price inflation fell less than forecast in April, leaving it at 8.7 per cent, the joint-highest with Italy among large advanced economies.
“The UK is really experiencing a very challenging situation. It is obviously challenging for all the central banks, but I think the UK is uniquely challenged,” said Katharine Neiss, chief European economist for investment firm PGIM Fixed Income and a former BoE official.
However, Neiss thinks the BoE is unlikely to raise interest rates as much as markets have priced in.
“The direction of travel is the right one – higher rates – but perhaps not as high as the market is expecting,” she said.
In a Reuters poll this week, economists predicted the BoE would raise interest rates just twice more, taking rates to a peak of five per cent by August or September.
If that proves the case, the BoE will not have much more tightening in store than markets currently expect for the Fed – whose policymakers see two more rate rises – or the ECB, which raised rates on Thursday and whose President Christine Lagarde indicated another rate rise was likely in July.