The Bank of England (BoE) raised interest rates today for only the second time since the global financial crisis of 2008.
Taking the base rate of UK interest to its highest point since March 2009, the rate went up a quarter-percent from 0.5% to 0.75%.
Markets had a 90% expectation of the move going ahead. In a unanimous vote, the bank was apparently satisfied that current economic conditions compared to UK performance merited the increase.
The change is likely to inflame tensions across politicians, economists and analysts, as an increase to the borrowing rate is typically a divisive topic.
BoE Governor Mark Carney and the other eight people who sit on the Monetary Policy Committee have apparently been planning a 2018 interest rise since November of last year, when the last hike took place.
Given that the increase was originally set to occur in May, it comes as no surprise that it carried today. The May plan experienced a delay when weaker-than-expected economic growth indicated that it was not the right time. August is typically the best month to go ahead with an interest rate rise.
Capital Index Research Director Kathleen Brooks predicted “only a very remote possibility” of an interest rate increase not taking place.
As markets were expectant of an interest rate rise and investors were ready to trade accordingly, Carney heeded warnings not to go back on his promise of a rate rise when the time was right. Markets had already been burnt when serious discussion occurred in May only for the economic outlook to stop the hike.
At the time, Carney faced criticism from leading investment experts, with Senior Economist Ben Brettell of Hargreaves Lansdown saying that the Governor’s “policy of guiding the markets as to what to expect has backfired”.
UBS Strategist John Wraith said this week that the move was an “unnecessary risk”, even as he admitted that “the lack of attempt to rein in the ever-higher market-implied probability of a 25bp hike” was enough to suggest that the BoE would go ahead with the rate increase.
Wraith said that the risk was not necessary or justified at this time, with “even the tentative tightening” since near the end of last year being a step too far.
Ongoing uncertainty around Brexit has naturally continued to put some brakes on any economic growth, as consumer and business confidence struggle and future forecasts are unclear. However, with growth at 0.3% a quarter, inflation levels at just over 2% and wages currently on the rise, the economic picture is less gloomy than it has been in recent years.
According to Wraith, the rise in wages and mild economic growth alongside tapered inflation is not enough to persuade consumers that they can be confident in the economy, as the threat of a no-deal Brexit continues to become more real. A lack of confidence in the corporate sector is also reducing the possibility of strong economic growth, as it does not show any hunger for true business investment.
Wraith added that recent polls from Ipsos Mori confirm that Brexit is the biggest issue undermining the economy and that making major changes while not addressing the lack of consumer and business confidence may not have the desired effect on lending patterns.