Tuesday, 26 January 2016

First BoE hike pushed back to fourth quarter - Reuters poll

A taxi and buses queue outside the Bank of England in London, Britain December 10, 2015. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Expectations for the first hike in interest rates from the Bank of England have receded to the fourth quarter, the second time in three weeks that analysts have pushed back their forecasts, a Reuters poll found on Tuesday.

The poll of nearly 60 economists comes a week after Governor Mark Carney, who last summer suggested a decision on when to start raising rates would probably become clear by early 2016, said now was not the right time.

"The year has turned, and, in my view, the decision proved straightforward: Now is not yet the time to raise interest rates," Carney said in his first speech of the year.

Bank Rate has sat at a record low of 0.5 percent for nearly seven years. Tuesday's poll said the first rise of 25 basis points would come sometime after September, most likely in November.

None of the 59 economists polled in the past week - before testimony from Carney to lawmakers on Tuesday - expected any move when the Monetary Policy Committee meets on Feb 4.

"An absence of inflation and global turmoil suggest that the BoE is wise to suggest that it will not be raising rates any time soon," said Peter Dixon at Commerzbank.

A poll published on Jan 4 said the first increase since mid-2007 would come in the second quarter, while one on Jan 14 had the third quarter pencilled in. Since early 2014, the median expectation has shifted seven times.

But even the latest call for the fourth quarter is doubtful.

Economists assigned only a 55 percent probability of a move by end-year. There is a more confident 65 percent chance of an increase by the end of March 2017 and a solid 75 percent likelihood by the middle of next year.

As in all recent polls, any increases will be gradual. Bank Rate is expected to be just 1.25 percent at the end of next year and 2.00 percent at the end of 2018, lower than predicted last week.

Interest rate futures markets, driven in part by turmoil on world stock markets since the start of the year on worries over China's slowing growth, are not pricing in the first increase for another two years.

But over three-quarters of the economists polled said the markets have gone too far.

Oil has tumbled more than 70 percent since mid-2014 and British inflation is close to zero, nowhere near the Bank's 2 percent target. According to a Reuters poll it won't get there until 2017 at the earliest.

With expectations for the first hike moving further out, sterling has fallen over 3 percent so far this year.

If the Bank does wait until November it would be almost a year behind the U.S. Federal Reserve which made its first hike in almost a decade at the end of 2015 and is expected to make three more moves this year.

In contrast, the European Central Bank will push its deposit rate further into negative territory in March and there is a 50-50 chance it tops up its asset purchase programme as it fights to drag up meagre inflation.


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