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UK rate rises some way off, says Bank of England

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The first rise in UK interest rates since March 2009 has been pushed further down the road, following the latest Bank of England quarterly inflation report.

While acknowledging interest rates would eventually need to rise from current levels, the report gave no indication a move was imminent, and reiterated that any increases will be gradual.

Minutes from the Bank’s latest rate-setting meeting, published in tandem with the report, show only one of the nine members of the Monetary Policy Committee, Ian McCafferty,  felt now was time to start increasing rates.

“Inflation is likely to remain lower than previously expected until late 2017,” the report said.

The report attributes this to recent falls in oil and other commodity prices, and a weakening outlook for global growth.

Despite the National Institute of Economic and Social Research’s recent prediction rates would rise in February 2016, it now appears a rate rise may come in the second quarter of next year, if not even later.

“With an interest rate rise now seemingly pushed out as far as 2017, this is good news for borrowers, but bad news for savers,” commented Maike Currie, associate investment director at Fidelity International.

“It leaves investors and retirees facing the ongoing conundrum of finding a home for their money in an environment of low inflation and low interest rates – a backdrop which typically makes for measly returns. Anyone seeking decent returns will need to look to the stock market but in particular companies that boast strong cash flows, don’t rack up debt and have pricing power – the ability to increase prices regardless of what’s happening in stock markets or the economy.”

Ian Cooper, head of savings at SunLife, said the latest announcement was unsurprising, and underlined the need for savers to look beyond cash ISAs to grow their funds.

 “Investments don’t have to be complicated; there are plenty of stocks and shares ISAs out there for people looking to beat cash,” he said.

“There is also the added benefit that you can invest up to £15,240 in this tax year – minus any amount you save in a cash ISA – and pay no income or capital gains tax on your returns.”

Shaun Port, chief investment officer of Nutmeg, said UK money market pricing now implies a cut in rates is more likely than a hike in the next six months.

“The market implied probability of a rise by the end of 2016 is now just 30 per cent,” he noted.

“Still, we believe borrowers need to consider the impact of higher base rates on future higher bond yields and mortgage rates.  And savers need to consider the impact of weaker bond prices (higher bond yields) will have on their investment portfolios.  We have positioned our clients’ portfolios to be protected from the full force of higher interest rates, inflation and wages.”

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