Bank of England hikes rates for the 2nd time since the financial crisis

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Anthony Devlin/Getty Images; Samantha Lee/Business Insider

  • The Bank of England increased interest rates for just the second time since the financial crisis on Thursday.
  • Britain’s central bank raised its benchmark interest rate to 0.75% from 0.5%.
  • Members of the rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee voted unanimously to raise rates.

The Bank of England raised interest rates for just the second time since the financial crisis on Thursday, in a move widely expected by commentators and market participants alike.

Britain’s central bank raised its base rate of interest from 0.5% to 0.75%, its second hike in less than a year as it continues the process of slowly normalizing monetary policy following more than a decade of unprecedented stimulus. The bank’s key rate now stands at its highest level since March 2009.

The nine members of the rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee voted unanimously to raise rates.

“Today, employment is at a record high, there is very limited spare capacity, real wages are picking up and external price pressures are declining,” the Bank of England’s Governor, Mark Carney, said at a press conference after the announcement.

“With domestically generated inflation building and the prospect of excess demand emerging, a modest tightening of monetary policy is now appropriate to return inflation to the 2% target and keep it there.”

Prior to the announcement, markets were pricing in a more than 90% chance of a hike, with Carney and the other eight members of the MPC signaling for several months that a hike was likely to come at its August meeting.

The pound jumped on the announcement, before falling sharply after Governor Mark Carney began to speak to reporters. By 12.55 p.m. BST (7.55 a.m. ET) it was close to 0.7% lower against the dollar.

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Markets Insider

Within the announcement, the Bank of England made clear that it stands ready to continue the normalization of monetary policy.

“The Committee judged that, were the economy to continue to develop broadly in line with its Inflation Report projections, an ongoing tightening of monetary policy over the forecast period would be appropriate to return inflation sustainably to the 2% target at a conventional horizon,” the BOE said.

Reaction to the hike was mixed, with some analysts questioning the expediency of the bank raising rates less than a year before the potential hit to the economy that Brexit may bring.

“At first glance, raising rates now looks something of a strange decision,” Ben Brettell, senior economist at FTSE 100 investment manager Hargreaves Lansdown said in an email.

“Inflation is above the 2% target, but not disastrously so. And a large chunk of the inflation we’re seeing is down to higher oil prices – something beyond the Bank of England’s control. Wage growth is relatively subdued, and the economy isn’t exactly overheating at the moment,” he added.