Cost of living: Bank of England governor to warn sharper rate hike is 'not locked in' as economy slows

·3-min read

The governor of the Bank of England is to warn that the prospect of a sharper increase in Bank rate next month is "not locked in" amid growing evidence of an easing in economic growth and in some inflationary pressures.

Andrew Bailey is expected to tell the City of London's annual Mansion House dinner that while the prospect of a 50 basis points rise in Bank rate will be on the table next month, the monetary policy committee recognised there was a trade off in a situation of high inflation and low growth.

Rising interest rates tend to hurt demand as borrowing costs rise but much of the inflation witnessed in the UK is on the supply side and out of the Bank's control - a consequence of the energy price spike following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Policymakers are most worried by supply side inflation stoking wage rises in line with the pace of price increases, arguing it will make the inflation problem more persistent.

Mr Bailey was to argue, the Bank said, that there was strong evidence of a weakening economy and that May's figures for economic growth - showing a 0.5% lift compared to April - should be treated with caution against a weakening backdrop in demand.

He was speaking as the Bank is urged to take firmer action against the threat to the economy posed by inflation - currently at its highest level for 40 years at 9.1%.

Mr Bailey spoke out in defence of the Bank's independence this month following criticism from politicians - including Tory leadership candidate Liz Truss - that it has bungled efforts to date to tame the pace of price increases.

The governor used his speech to reiterate that monetary policy would bring inflation back to the Bank's 2% target.

Financial markets currently see a 94% chance that the Bank will raise Bank rate to 1.75% from its current level of 1.25% on 4 August.

But Mr Bailey was due to say: "At the MPC's last meeting we adopted language which made clear that if we see signs of greater persistence of inflation, and price and wage setting would be such signs, we will have to act forcefully.

"In simple terms this means that a 50 basis point increase will be among the choices on the table when we next meet.

"50 basis points is not locked in, and anyone who predicts that is doing so based on their own view."

The Bank, which has predicted that inflation will hit 11% in October when the next energy price cap increase is due to be implemented, could also raise that forecast at its next meeting which is followed by the quarterly monetary policy report.

Mr Bailey was due to say on the current situation for inflation: "The big external shocks - from Russia and supply chains (post-COVID) - account both for a large part of the inflation overshoot above target and for the squeeze on real incomes.

"My sense of the latest data is that the supply chain/goods shock has started to ease, but the Russian impact - particularly on natural gas prices in Europe is going the other way as we look ahead to the winter."

Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi was also due to address the dinner.

He was also set to confirm a focus on fighting inflation and a post-Brexit reworking of financial regulation inherited from the European Union, including Solvency II insurance rules.

According to speech extracts provided by the Treasury, he was to say on the cost of living battle: "That means delivering sound public finances to avoid pushing up demand still further, providing help for households as they deal with the worst price rises in over a generation."

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