Experts predict Bank of England won't cut interest rates this week

Economists say two indicators the Bank of England uses – pay growth and services sector inflation – are proving difficult to control

Spring flowers bloom in front of the Bank of England building in London. Reuters
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The Bank of England looks set to hold out for stronger signs the cost-of-living crisis is abating before lowering interest rates, experts say.

UK borrowers will have to wait longer to see interest rates come down when the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee announces its latest decision on Thursday.

The committee is expected to keep rates at the current level of 5.25 per cent, which it has been held at since August.

It means that borrowers holding out for costs to come down could have to wait longer before pressure starts to ease.

At the last meeting in March, just one member of the MPC, Swati Dhingra, voted for rates to be cut by 0.25 percentage points, but the remaining eight members voted for no change.

“This broad direction illustrates that collectively the committee is moving gradually towards a rate cut," Philip Shaw, chief economist at Investec, said.

“It seems unlikely though to be ready to bite the bullet just yet and the bank rate looks set to remain on hold at 5.25 per cent for the sixth consecutive meeting.”

Interest rates explained - video

Interest rates explained

Interest rates explained

He added that it is possible that a second member of the MPC will switch to the “easing camp” and vote for a cut on Thursday.

Interest rates are used as a tool to help bring down UK inflation, which has fallen sharply from the highs hit in 2022 when energy costs spiked and the cost-of-living crisis was at its peak.

The rate of Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation fell to 3.2 per cent in March, according to the latest official figures.

But experts suggested that two key economic indicators for the Bank of England – pay growth and services sector inflation – have remained more stubborn.

Average wages continued to increase faster than the rate of inflation last month.

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“The data published in mid-April for services inflation and private sector regular pay growth has likely extinguished any remaining hopes of a move in May," Andrew Goodwin, chief UK economist for Oxford Economics, said.

“Though both measures have continued to fall, progress has been slightly slower than the MPC anticipated, and they are currently running marginally higher than the forecasts published in February’s Monetary Policy Report.”

He said it is likely to be a “close call” on whether the MPC decides to cut rates in June or August.

Investec’s Mr Shaw said he expects CPI inflation to have fallen to the target 2 per cent level in May, which would prompt the MPC to cut interest rates to 5 per cent when they next meet in June.

Economists at HSBC are also expecting the first rate cut to come in June.

UK Chancellor says 'best tax cut right now is a cut in inflation' - video

UK Chancellor says 'best tax cut right now is a cut in inflation'

UK Chancellor says 'best tax cut right now is a cut in inflation'

The Bank of England will shed more light on its predictions for the economy and the path of interest rates when it publishes the latest Monetary Policy Report alongside the rates decision on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the central bank in the US, the Federal Reserve, said on Wednesday it was keeping its key interest rate at the same level and noted a “lack of further progress” towards lowering inflation.

It means rates could stay higher for longer until there is firmer evidence of price rises easing, its chairman Jerome Powell suggested.

Updated: May 05, 2024, 11:01 PM