With market sentiment strong as the economy is recovering and more people are vaccinated, economists will be looking with great expectations at today’s Bank of England interest rate decision. Despite the current optimism, the bank is not expected to raise interest rates from their current record low of 0.1%.
Will the bank raise its growth forecasts?
The economy has improved: the private sector has experienced fast growth, mortgage lending is at a record, and economists are forecasting that UK GDP will rise at its highest since the 1940s. The FTSE 100 share index hit its highest level in over a year yesterday, with banks, mining and oil companies benefiting from the global economic rebound.
Britain’s services sector has also posted its fastest growth in more than seven years, as the latest Service PMI jumped to 61.0 for April. Companies saw sharp increases in business and consumer spending, new projects and new orders rose at their fastest rate since December 2013. Service providers noted that the easing of Covid-19 restrictions across the UK has helped businesses and growth. Firms also employed more staff and employment growth accelerated to its fastest since October 2015.
Since the economy is doing so well, the BoE is expected to raise its growth forecasts today, in its latest Monetary Policy Report which will also be released on Thursday. Elsa Lignos of RBC has noted that the Bank will predict a smaller increase in unemployment this year: “Significantly, the extension of the government’s furlough scheme, which was announced at the budget, is likely to see the MPC lower its estimate of where it expects unemployment to peak once support is withdraw.”
Will the bank slow its stimulus programme?
At the same time, the Monetary Policy Committee will be considering when to slow its £895bn asset purchase stimulus programme, which is buying up around £4.4bn of government bonds each week. If there are any strong signals that it may do so, then the pound could rise.
Shamik Dhar, chief economist at BNY Mellon Investment Management, said that the “economy looks set to bounce back strongly in the second half, probably at double digit annualized growth rates, returning overall activity to pre-crisis levels this year. Inflationary pressures might build, but will probably be contained by a strong supply response in those industries that have been locked down. The Bank of England (BoE) remains a long way off tightening monetary policy, but could be one of the first central banks to signal it’s thinking about it, possibly in early 2022.” Despite the bright outlook, the economy will not return to pre-Covid levels. He added:
“The economy will return to pre-crisis levels of economic activity quickly, and possibly recover the pre-crisis trend level next year. But the composition of the UK economy has probably changed permanently thanks to the pandemic. While we will see a strong bounce back in ‘close contact’ industries, such as hospitality and travel, this year and next, they may never recover their pre-crisis share of the economy. ‘Remotely-consumed’ goods and services will remain a larger proportion of the economy than they were pre-pandemic.”
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