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BOE Set for Steady Rate Hikes Amid Global Chaos: Decision Guide

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(Bloomberg) — The Bank of England is set to deliver a fifth-straight rate hike on Thursday, with officials expected to stick to a steady path a day after central banks on both side of the Atlantic unleashed policy fireworks.

Investors and economists are betting the UK central bank’s nine policy makers will increase the key rate a quarter point to a 13-year high of 1.25% on Thursday. Analysts expect three members to push for a 50 basis-point rise.

The decision comes against the backdrop of a global rout in financial markets, with fears mounting that central banks have lost control of inflation. 

Two of the BOE’s peers made dramatic moves to quell those fears on Wednesday, albeit in seemingly opposing directions. The Federal Reserve, which is in full inflation fighting mode, hiked rates by 75 basis points in its biggest move since 1994. The European Central Bank held an emergency meeting to accelerate work on a new tool to combat unwarranted jumps in euro-area bond yields.

The BOE started tightening monetary policy earlier than its peers, giving it room to move cautiously. Officials led by Governor Andrew Bailey are focused on how to curb inflation, which at 9% is forecast to hit double digits later this year, perhaps in excess of five times the 2% target. 

Energy prices and taxes are fanning inflation now, and the pound’s more than 10% plunge against the dollar so far this year threatens to exacerbate those pressures. 

The BOE is also concerned about a cooling in the pace of the recovery from the coronavirus recession. The economy contracted in recent months and may lose further momentum, with many workers remaining outside the labor market and price pressures constraining businesses. 

Bailey can thank Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak for making it easier to balance the challenge of juggling both inflation and the recovery. 

The Treasury’s multi-billion-pound aid program for households announced last month allays some concerns about squeezing consumers at the moment wages are struggling to keep up with prices. That support gives the BOE room to lean harder into the monetary tightening that Bailey says is needed.

Minutes of Thursday’s decision may give an indication of that shift. Three members of the Monetary Policy Committee voted at the last meeting for a half-point rate hike. The Treasury’s salvo may be enough to convince the two most dovish members, who in May declined to back the BOE’s guidance that more hikes were needed, to return to the fold.

The fiscal package “is of considerable significance,” HSBC economist Elizabeth Martins said last week. She expects three of the BOE’s nine rate setters to back a 50 basis point hike, but says the fiscal package means “it is possible that more members might vote in this way — and potentially even a majority.”

The BOE’s announcement is due at noon in London. The decision will be accompanied by minutes of the meeting, and Bailey isn’t scheduled to deliver a press conference.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

BOE Set for Steady Rate Hikes Amid Global Chaos: Decision Guide

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