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Interest rates could rise in May 2019 – economist

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11/12/2018
Brexit and slowing economy growth have quashed the likelihood of an interest rate rise from the Bank of England in early 2019 but expect a move in May, a leading economist group has said.

The UK economy grew by 0.4% in the three months to October, down from 0.6% in the previous three months, data showed this week.

At the same time, the prime minister Theresa May has delayed a crucial parliament vote on her Brexit deal.

It means the uncertainty over how the UK will leave the European Union (EU) is set to continue for longer.

Markets now only give a 5% chance to the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) raising the base rate in February, and 30% in May.

However, the chances applied to a May hike “looks like an overreaction”, according to Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

He said: “Even if, as we still expect, the prime minister eventually forces a modified Brexit deal through parliament, the economic data likely won’t have perked up before the MPC’s meeting on May 2.

“Nonetheless, the committee regularly hikes due to its expectations for growth and underlying inflation, and it likely will expect both to strengthen, as investment recovers and the chancellor’s fiscal stimulus kicks in.

“As such, we still think the odds of a May rate hike exceed 50%.”

Strong wage and employment data released today could also strengthen the case for rates rising sooner rather than later.

Wage growth has increased to 3.3% both including and excluding bonuses, while employment is at a record high.

Tom Stevenson, investment director for personal investing at Fidelity International, said: “After yesterday’s weaker than expected GDP figures and more Brexit uncertainty after Theresa May’s last-minute decision to abort today’s Brexit vote, today’s wage growth figures provide UK workers with a little bit of pre-Christmas cheer.

“However, while we have now seen wage growth rise for four consecutive months, we are still not out of the woods.

“With the ongoing political and economic uncertainty, the recent steps forward could be reversed. Britain’s pay growth continues to lag our main competitors since the financial crisis.

“The current cocktail of concerns offers the Bank of England little incentive to hike interest rates any time soon.

“And even if the central bank does plan to increase rates over time, it expects to do so at a ‘gradual pace and to a limited extent’.”

Robert Quinn provides financial regulatory expertise, click here to read more

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