Bank of England holds interest rate at 0.75% after slowdown fears allay

Topics Bank of England

A general view shows the Bank of England in the City of London

The Bank of England on Thursday opted against cutting interest rates after a run of fairly firm economic data in the past week eased fears about a dramatic slowdown in the British economy.

The bank said in a statement that its Monetary Policy Committee voted 7-2 to keep the key UK interest rate unchanged at 0.75 per cent.

The decision, which comes a day before the UK leaves the European Union, marks the final time that Mark Carney will be at the helm at the bank. He leaves in March, to be replaced by former deputy governor Andrew Bailey.

Whether interest rates move in the coming months up or down will hinge on whether the recent upturn in the survey data, largely credited to the easing in Brexit uncertainty following the convincing election win of Boris Johnson's Conservative Party in the December general election, translates into an improvement in the hard figures.

Most economists think the economy will have done well to eke out growth any higher than 1 per cent last year, which would be the lowest yearly rate since the country emerged from recession a decade ago.

If there's no sign of an underlying improvement in the early months of this year, then interest rates could be cut soon, not least because inflation, at 1.3 per cent, is running at its lowest annual rate since late 2016. However, if the survey data augurs a period of higher growth, then many economists think a rate hike could be in the offing sometime this year.

Brexit uncertainty has been largely to blame for a period of tepid growth. Firms have been holding back investment amid fears that Britain would leave the EU without a divorce deal while consumers have become cautious. Some Brexit uncertainty remains as it's still not clear what the economic relationship between Britain and the EU will look like beyond the end of this year.

After Britain officially leaves the EU on Friday, it goes into a so-called transition period through the end of the year during which time it will remain part of the EU's tariff-free single market and customs union. Johnson has said that he won't request an extension to that transition period and that 11 months represents ample time to secure a comprehensive new trade deal between Britain and the EU for goods and services.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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