Bank of England keeps interest rates on hold on first-quarter slump

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The Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee has voted to keep interest rates on hold at 0.5 per cent.

Frances Haque, Santander's United Kingdom chief economist, commented: "The MPC's decision was widely expected given the disappointing economic data for Q1 2018, with GDP growth being significantly below expectations and inflation surprising to the downside".

Carney said the central bank was still prepared to raise interest rates again - having hiked them in November for the first time in a decade - if the economy picks up again, as expected.

Sterling dropped after the Bank of England held interest rates steady as expected, but trimmed some losses after Governor Mark Carney told the BBC that he expected a rate rise over the course of the next year if there are no shocks to the economy. There has been no sharp increase in swap rates or fixed rates in the mortgage market.

Instead, figures showed the economy barely grew in the first three months of the year and inflation fell by more than anticipated.

There was bad news, however, for 2018, with the bank saying that it expects growth of just 1.4% in the United Kingdom this year, compared to 1.8% at its previous forecast.

But wages - which the Bank is also closely-watching - are beginning to outstrip inflation, with average weekly earnings up 2.8% in the year to February in a sign that other inflationary pressures may be building.

The Bank of England leaves interest rates unchanged at 0.5%. Sterling fell to a day's low of $1.352, reversing earlier gains, and the yield on two-year British government bonds, which are sensitive to monetary policy expectations, fell modestly.

With investors hating uncertainty, a failure in this regard could give the GBP/EUR exchange rate a chance to recover, but it will be heavily dependent on what occurs in the imminent BoE rate decision.

The majority of the MPC noted the recent weak numbers and said there wasn't much cost to waiting to assess the economy more fully.

Additionally, if there is a narrow division between voters for and against higher interest rates, such as a four-to-five split, then the Pound could also appreciate.

Policymakers kept the prospect of rate hikes firmly on the cards, although it sparked confusion over when the next increase may come.

They repeated their calls for a rise to 0.75 per cent to avoid more "abrupt" policy action further down the line.

"Given the recent weakness in consumer credit and the housing market, there was somewhat greater-than-usual uncertainty about the near-term momentum in consumer spending and the extent to which households would adjust their spending and saving to the past fall in their real incomes", the minutes said.

The Bank expects that effect to fade over the coming years, bringing inflation back to 2% by early 2021.