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Bank of England maintains Bank Rate at 5.25%

The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) sets monetary policy to meet the 2% inflation target and in a way that helps to sustain growth and employment. At its meeting ending on 8 May 2024, the MPC voted by a majority of 7–2 to maintain the Bank Rate at 5.25%. Two members preferred to reduce it by 0.25 percentage points, to 5%.

The Committee’s updated projections for activity and inflation are set out in the May Monetary Policy Report and are conditioned on a market-implied path for Bank Rate that declines from 5¼% to 3¾% by the end of the forecast period, compared with an endpoint of 3¼% in February.

Following modest weakness last year, UK GDP is expected to have risen by 0.4% in 2024 Q1 and to grow by 0.2% in Q2. Despite picking up during the forecast period, demand growth is expected to remain weaker than potential supply growth throughout most of that period. A margin of economic slack is projected to emerge during 2024 and 2025 and to remain thereafter, in part reflecting the continued restrictive stance of monetary policy.

With respect to indicators of inflation persistence, services consumer price inflation has declined but remains elevated, at 6.0% in March. There remains considerable uncertainty around statistics derived from the ONS Labour Force Survey. It is therefore more difficult to gauge the evolution of the labour market. Based on a broad set of indicators, the MPC judges that the labour market continues to loosen but that it remains relatively tight by historical standards. Annual private sector regular average weekly earnings growth declined to 6.0% in the three months to February, although that series tends to be volatile. Alternative indicators also suggest easing pay growth.

Twelve-month CPI inflation fell to 3.2% in March from 3.4% in February. CPI inflation is expected to return to close to the 2% target in the near term, but to increase slightly in the second half of this year, to around 2½%, owing to the unwinding of energy-related base effects. There continue to be upside risks to the near-term inflation outlook from geopolitical factors, although developments in the Middle East have had a limited impact on oil prices so far.

Conditioned on market interest rates and reflecting a margin of slack in the economy, CPI inflation is projected to be 1.9% in two years’ time and 1.6% in three years in the May Report.

The MPC remains prepared to adjust monetary policy as warranted by economic data to return inflation to the 2% target sustainably. It will therefore continue to monitor closely indications of persistent inflationary pressures and resilience in the economy as a whole, including a range of measures of the underlying tightness of labour market conditions, wage growth and services price inflation. The Committee will consider forthcoming data releases and how these inform the assessment that the risks from inflation persistence are receding. On that basis, the Committee will keep under review for how long Bank Rate should be maintained at its current level.

Further detailed information can be found in the:

MPC Summary and Minutes – May 2024 

Agents’ Update on Business Conditions (page 63 of the report)- May 2024

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