In a recent City A.M. poll, leading economists have accelerated their predictions for the Bank of England’s next interest rate cut, anticipating a move as early as March. The consensus points towards a perceived hawkish stance in the Bank’s monetary policy, despite positive strides in combatting inflation. This blog post explores the factors influencing this shift in expectations, examining market dynamics, inflation data, and the Bank’s recent decisions.
Markets have already factored in assertive rate cuts for the first half of 2024. Investors are placing their bets on inflation cooling down and anticipate that high borrowing costs will put a damper on economic growth. According to the City A.M. poll, 29% of surveyed experts believe the central bank will cut rates in March, while an additional 24% foresee a reduction in May. These expectations signal a departure from previous forecasts, with the majority of economists in November expecting a cut between May and August.
The sharp slowdown in inflation has become a pivotal factor pressuring the Bank to consider earlier rate cuts. Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that the consumer price index (CPI) was 3.9% in November, down from the previous month’s 4.6%. Lower food and petrol prices contributed to this decline, defying economists’ expectations of 4.3%. The Bank’s November forecast predicted a year-end inflation rate of 3.1%, further highlighting the need for a recalibration of monetary policy.
Despite promising wage growth and encouraging CPI figures, the Bank opted to maintain interest rates at a 15-year high of 5.25% for the third consecutive time in its last meeting. Critics argue that this decision is overly hawkish, especially in light of improvements in key economic metrics. The Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) justified its stance by emphasising that inflation remains well above the government’s two percent target, cautioning against premature rate cuts.
A significant concern for the Bank going into 2024 is identified as wage growth. Approximately 57% of surveyed economists highlight this as a pivotal factor. Despite recent meetings emphasising high wage growth and a tight labour market as justifications for maintaining rates, the latest wage growth data, at 7.3%, is below expectations. Policymakers view substantial pay increases as a potential driver of domestically driven inflation.
Ben Broadbent, a Deputy Governor at the Bank, recently indicated that he would need “further evidence” of easing wage pressures before considering a shift in policy. This statement underscores the Bank’s cautious approach and the importance it places on comprehensive data analysis.
As the economic landscape navigates uncertainty, the Bank of England finds itself at a critical juncture. The anticipation of an interest rate cut reflects a nuanced evaluation of inflation, GDP performance, and wage dynamics. Investors and businesses alike are advised to monitor these developments closely, as they will undoubtedly shape the financial landscape in the coming months.
(Source: City AM)