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Pound rallies as Bank of England targets rate rise in coming months to combat inflation

Tom Rees
Bank of England governor Mark Carney with the new £10 note which was released today - AFP

  • Majority of Bank of England's MPC believes "some withdrawal of monetary stimulus is likely to be appropriate over the coming months" to combat inflation
  • MPC voted 7-2 in favour of leaving interest rates at 0.25pc
  • Pound jumps on currency markets as traders digest the hawkish hint on rates in the BoE's statement; sterling is trading 0.7pc higher at $1.33
  • FTSE 100 recovers from poor start; miners weigh heavily after disappointing Chinese data

The Bank of England has laid the groundwork in its latest policy decision to raise interest rates before the end of the year to combat rising inflation squeezing UK households.

The central bank said that "some withdrawal of monetary stimulus is likely to be appropriate over the coming months" to bring inflation back down to its 2pc target and ease the pressure on consumer spending.

The Monetary Policy Committee's 7-2 split in favour of leaving interest rates at 0.25pc initially sunk the pound before it soared as traders found the hawkish hint deep in the central bank's statement. Against the dollar, sterling jumped 0.8pc higher to above $1.33 following the release with the markets caught off guard by the surprise shift.

Pantheon Macro UK economist Samuel Tombs said that the rhetoric was a "clear communication shift" from governor Mark Carney and the MPC.

"While there has not been a rate rise today, over the next 12-24 months rates will rise higher and faster than market expectations," said Nick Dixon, investment director at Aegon.

"This will be good news for those seeking annuity income or with cash savings and bad news for mortgage holders."

3:40PM

Bank of England reaction: Hike forecasts will need to be reviewed

Let's have one final look at what the experts are saying in reaction to the Bank of England's strongest hint yet that interest rates will rise before the end of the year.

Investec economist Philip Shaw has said he will have to put his forecast of a hike in 2019 under review following today's statement.

He explained:

"It seems abundantly clear from the minutes that the Monetary Policy Committee is seriously considering a rate hike at its next meeting in November. We are less concerned over medium-term inflation developments than the MPC.

"We view domestic price pressures as remaining muted over the next couple of years and judge that inflation will decline noticeably over the next 12-18 months as the effects of the fall in the pound on inflation begin to fade. Hence our baseline case has been (and just about still is) that the first hike will not occur until well into 2019. But after today’s minutes, we will have to put this forecast seriously under review."

Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell said this on how it affected markets:

"While some analysts aren’t convinced that this does bring a potential November or December hike into play – mainly for reasons associated with Mark Carney’s personal dovishness and the ongoing fall in real wages – the pound was unambiguous in its response.

"The currency rocketed 1.3% higher against the dollar and 1.1% against the euro, striking a $1.335-crossing one year high against the former and, at one point, an 8 week peak against the latter. This made for a miserable Thursday for the FTSE, which plunged more than 1% to sit only a handful of points above 7300."

3:14PM

Spire shares dive as NHS referrals fall and £27m is paid out to victims of rogue surgeon 

Rogue surgeon Ian Paterson was sentenced in May

Spire Healthcare shares have dived on a double blow for the private hospitals group, with NHS referrals down and £27m having to be set aside for compensating victims of rogue breast cancer surgeon Ian Paterson.

Shares in the FTSE 250 firm were down 18pc in lunchtime trading after it revised down forecasts for the full-year following an abrupt fall in NHS referrals this summer.

The UK’s second largest private healthcare provider said the drop in July and August had led to “significantly lower than anticipated revenues” and it now expects second half revenues to be flat on the previous year, while margins are forecast to be as much as 0.7pc lower at around 16.1pc.

The downbeat outlook came after Spire yesterday said it will pay £27.2m in compensation to around 750 private patients who suffered physical and mental pain at the hands of Mr Paterson.

Read Iain Withers' full report here

3:08PM

Bank of England reaction: Pound supported without need to resort to more blunt tools

Sterling has now steadied on currency markets at its one-year high against the dollar and a two-month high against the euro.

It's quite ironic that a stronger pound will pull down inflation and thus reduce the need to hike rates to combat rising prices. Maybe that's all Mark Carney and co wanted all along?

Head of FX strategy at Rabobank Jane Foley takes a more skeptical view on today's rhetoric shift, saying that Mr Carney and the central bank have been able to support the pound without having "to resort to the more significant tools at its disposal".

She said:

"Many will understandably now think that a rate rise in imminent, but in fact our view is that it is more likely to be next summer. This is because the MPC is still dominated by doves, such as Mark Carney, who are concerned about the impact higher rates could have on real wages so dependent on consumer spending.  

"Of course, the risks could change, particularly if sterling were to devalue further, but for now the Bank’s rhetoric appears to have done its job."

2:41PM

FTSE 100 suffering on buoyant pound

The FTSE 100 has retreated 1pc following the pound's surge

The pound's surge as the Bank of England prepares markets for an interest rate rise in the coming months has weakened the big exporters on the FTSE 100, which rely heavily on overseas earnings.

After bobbing around flat territory this morning, the UK's benchmark index has sunk 1pc as the pound soars and the prospect of higher borrowing costs increases.

Miners continue to lag as metal prices retreat on the disappointing Chinese industrial production figures pointing to a slowing economy in Asia while Next has held onto to its 10pc gain on its brighter outlook.

Troubled doorstep lender Provident Financial has dived another 4.6pc on a broker downgrade while Morrisons has suffered its worst fall in six months as operating margins narrow.

2:20PM

Carney surprises markets with suggestion Bank of England could raise interest rates this year

The Bank of England surprised markets by indicating that interest rates could go up sooner and more quickly than expected, as it said hikes may be needed to keep inflation under control.

Mark Carney and the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) kept interest rates on hold at 0.25pc, but said investors do not fully appreciate that rates could rise "over the coming months".

Sterling rose by 1pc against the dollar to $1.3341 as a result.

The MPC voted by a margin of seven members to two against changing rates, arguing that the Bank of England should be supporting economic growth and employment at a time of economic uncertainty.

Read our economics correspondent Tim Wallace's full report on the Bank of England here

2:06PM

Bank of England reaction: Minutes struck an upbeat tone on the economy

Today's hawkish talk of an interest rate rise in the coming months did come with its usual side of caveats from the Bank of England but it adopted a cheery tone on the economy.

Monetary policy will only be tightened if the economy "follows a path broadly consistent with the August Inflation Report central projection", the central bank said. 

The BoE also highlighted the reaction of households and business to developments in the EU withdrawal process as one of the main risks to the outlook.

The central bank appeared upbeat on wage growth, however, says Capital Economics UK economist Paul Hollingsworth.

He said:

"The minutes struck a fairly upbeat tone on the economy too, suggesting that the activity data released since the August meeting points to a slightly stronger picture than anticipated, in the labour market in particular. 

"And while regular (i.e. excluding bonuses) pay growth was a bit weaker than the MPC had forecast back in August, this was largely due to the public sector, with private sector pay growth holding up as expected. The news this week that the 1% pay cap is to be lifted for some public sector workers might give the MPC more confidence that some of the weakness will be unwound."

Analysts seem to agree that November will be when the Bank of England moves rates rather than the December meeting.

1:44PM

Markets are not entirely convinced by the Bank of England's hawkish turn

The markets are not entirely convinced by today's hawkish turn at the Bank of England and are now pricing in just a 54.7pc chance of a hike before the end of the year.

Part of that thinking could be that despite the shift in rhetoric only two policymakers voted for a hike, long-term dissidents Ian McCafferty and Michael Saunders.

The central bank's chief economist Andy Haldane hinted earlier this summer that he was ready to back a change in monetary policy but he is yet to put his money where his mouth is.

Action speaks louder than words, says Lukman Otunuga, research analyst at FXTM.

He commented:

"It should be kept in mind that the unsavoury combination of rising inflation, subdued wage growth and Brexit uncertainty has placed the central bank in a very tight spot.

"It becomes a question - will the BoE eventually raise rates to tame inflation, which is currently squeezing UK household? Or will tepid wage growth, concerns over the health of the UK economy and Brexit uncertainty keep the central bank on standby?"

1:35PM

Pound eases off on dollar as US inflation comes in stronger than expected

Today's CPI figure in the US has boosted the US' own chance of a rate rise

The pound's gains on the dollar have eased off in the last few moments after US inflation jumped up to 1.9pc, boosting the chance of an interest rate rise across the Atlantic.

One of the prerequisites to a rate hike in the US is that persistently weak inflation figures improve and today's better-than-expected data has bumped up the chance of the Fed also raising rates before the end of the year.

1:12PM

November meeting the next opportunity for the Bank of England to raise rates

Some analysts are pointing out that Mark Carney and co have teased the markets on interest rate rises before to no avail but this time could be different.

Under his reign at the Bank of England inflation has never been higher and, with the European Central Bank and US Federal Reserve also beginning to unwind their monetary stimulus, thinking among the central banking top tier is undoubtedly shifting.

The next MPC meeting on November 2 is now the date for the diary of BoE watchers.

Global strategist at ADMISI Marc Ostwald has provided this list of what's changed in the Bank of England's assessment of the UK economy:

a) GDP no longer needs to be above the pace forecast in August in order to prompt change in their rate trajectory, as Carney then implied, even if he did make it clear that that was his, rather the committee's opinion.

b) They note that the July Average Earnings (the 'disappointing' data from yesterday) were above the pace assumed that they were assuming in the Q3 Inflation report, though they suggest that this is probably not signalling a sustained uptrend

c) They add that labour market slack is being absorbed at a faster pace than they had been assuming, which gives them less scope to look through above target inflation

 d) They now expected CPI to breach 3.0% y/y in October, as against previously expecting it to peak at 3.0%

Hamish Muress, currency analyst at OFX, said this on today's decision:

"Clearly the Bank isn’t overly concerned about yesterday’s poor wage growth data, and sees the UK economy picking up more quickly than expected. All eyes will be on the Bank in November, to see if it follows through on its promise to raise interest rates.  

"The market favours today’s hawkish stance, and the pound rallying against the dollar in anticipation of a coming rate rise."

12:54PM

Pound soars on currency markets; improving economic indicators persuaded MPC

Against a basket of the leading global currencies, the pound has jumped 0.9pc higher

The pound has lit up in luminous green on forex traders' screens and is back up to a fresh one-year high against the dollar, trading at $1.3318.

As we predicted, the devil was indeed in the detail but, like the traders that initially sold off sterling on the dovish look to the vote split, I wasn't expecting the headline grabber to be hidden that deep into the Bank of England's statement. 

Delving back into the text, indicators pointing a stronger economy is why the Bank of England has been persuaded to take a hawkish turn.

Here's the relevant part of the text:

Since the August Report, the relatively limited news on activity points, if anything, to a slightly stronger picture than anticipated.  GDP rose by 0.3% in the second quarter, as expected in the MPC’s August projections, although initial estimates of private final demand were softer than anticipated.  The unemployment rate has continued to decline, to 4.3%, its lowest in over 40 years and a little lower than forecast in August.  

Survey indicators are consistent with continued strength in employment growth.  Evidence continues to accumulate that the rate of potential supply growth has slowed in recent years.  Overall, the latest indicators are consistent with UK demand growing a little in excess of this diminished rate of potential supply growth, and the continued erosion of what is now a fairly limited degree of spare capacity.  Underlying pay growth has shown some signs of recovery, albeit remaining modest.

12:41PM

Snap reaction to Bank of England hint at withdrawal of monetary stimulus

For the sake of my email inbox, let's have a quick look through the snap reaction to today's Bank of England release.

Savers are today's winners and mortgage holders the losers, according to Nick Dixon, investment director at Aegon.

He said:

"With increasing demand for pay rises to make up declining real income, the inflation challenge is becoming structural. The pressure is on to increase public sector wages to counter inflation, but with a slim majority the government will be wary about matching wage increases with a tax rise.

"Hence fiscal policy will loosen and monetary policy will tighten to maintain macro-balance. While there has not been a rate rise today, over the next 12-24 months rates will rise higher and faster than market expectations. This will be good news for those seeking annuity income or with cash savings and bad news for mortgage holders."

 The Bank of England has told the markets that the bar to a hike is not that high, says ETX Capital analyst Neil Wilson.

He commented:

"The Bank of England kept rates on hold as expected but there was a clear signal that the bar to a hike is not that high. On the one hand the decision was a little more dovish with many expecting a 6-3 vote. At 7-2 the doves appear very much in control and this seemed to be taken as a trigger to sell sterling at the moment the vote count was released.

"We saw a sharp plunge in cable to 1.31547, before it reversed course and turned higher as the minutes revealed a more hawkish tone than the vote suggested. Sterling jumped back to $1.33 as traders digested the details. Indeed delving deeper into the minutes there are more hawkish tendencies coming to the fore."

12:13PM

Bank of England: 'Some withdrawal of monetary stimulus is likely to be appropriate over the coming months'

Mark Carney and the MPC is targeting a rate rise in the coming months to combat inflation

The pound had a bit of a rollercoaster on that one. It initially dipped after traders saw the dovish 7-2 split in the vote and then rallied as traders found the hawkish hint on a rate rise deep in the Bank of England's text.

Here's the relevant part on withdrawing monetary stimulus:

A majority of MPC members judge that, if the economy continues to follow a path consistent with the prospect of a continued erosion of slack and a gradual rise in underlying inflationary pressure then, with the further lessening in the trade-off that this would imply, some withdrawal of monetary stimulus is likely to be appropriate over the coming months in order to return inflation sustainably to target.  

12:03PM

Interest rates remain at 0.25pc; stimulus reduction in the coming months

The Bank of England's MPC has voted to leave interest rates at 0.25pc with a 7-2 split in the vote. The central bank added that it would target reducing stimulus in the coming months, pushing the pound up 0.5pc against the dollar to $1.3263.

11:30AM

Lunchtime (ish) update: Miners weigh on FTSE 100; Next soars 11pc

Next upped its profit forecast for the year and said that it has seen "encouraging" trading in the last three months

With the Bank of England's decision on interest rates dominating after 12pm, let's have a quick markets update a little earlier than usual.

The FTSE 100 has recovered from a poor start and nudged up into positive territory this morning as the global relief rally on stock markets fizzles out.

Miners are weighing heaviest on the index this morning after metal prices retreated on disappointing industrial production data while the oil giants have jumped as Brent crude rallies over the $55 per barrel mark.

Clothing store Next has soared nearly 11pc after reporting on "somewhat less challenging" trading and the brighter outlook is pulling up M&S and Debenhams

On the currency markets, the pound is steady ahead of the Bank of England's decision with markets expecting no change in policy at the central bank. Sterling is trading flat against the dollar, just above $1.32, with the main focus of the MPC's decision today on the split in the vote.

11:13AM

Bank of England decision: what the experts say

Mark Carney said that the markets were underestimating the chance of a rate hike

The consensus of analysts seem to believe that today's decision at the Bank of England could be much ado about nothing if Andy Haldane stays on the side of the doves.

There is a rumour on fountain of knowledge Twitter, however, that the split was a lot tighter than expected, 5-4. That would be very intriguing  and the pound would undoubtedly soar if that was the case but a lot of things are said on Twitter. 

Let's have a quick round-up of what the experts are saying ahead of today's Bank of England decision.

Lee Wild, head of equity strategy at Interactive Investor doesn't think we'll get a rise until well into next year.

He said:

"Higher borrowing costs are inevitable, and this week’s inflation data was certainly a surprise to currency markets, but interest rates will not increase this month. At best there will likely be no more than three votes for a hike at today’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting. Anything more would be a complete shock and put a rocket under sterling.  

"It will require another fall in the pound and far bigger overshoot on inflation to make the doves switch sides. Don’t expect a sufficient conversion until well into 2018."

The pound is most likely to move lower after today's decision, according to Caxton currency analyst Alexandra Russell-Oliver.

She said:

"Following the acceleration in inflation last month, investors will look for a more hawkish shift in the overall tone taken or in the vote breakdown.

"Any additional dissent amongst the MPC would likely give the pound a boost, but the greater risk is to the downside should those expectations be disappointed. This could see the pound retreat further from the one-year high struck against the dollar yesterday."

10:45AM

Next soars on sunny outlook after 'difficult' six months

Retailers have been weakened by the squeeze on consumer spending

Bellwether clothing store Next has soared to the top of the FTSE 100 leaderboard this morning after indicating that trading has improved following a "difficult" six months.

Accendo Markets analyst Mike Van Dulken believes the company could even surprise again in the future:

"Shareholders may even be wondering whether today’s upgraded guidance figures are conservative, destined for a beat to ensure a 2016-17 run of downgrades is water under the bridge. Especially with an earlier than usual arrival of cooler weather that could kick-start the run-in to the key Christmas period via increased sales of bigger ticket heavier Autumn/Winter items.  

"First half performance was poor to say the least with Retail profits -33.3% on Retail Sales -8.3%, however, this was in line with already cautious guidance. Encouraging, less challenging trends over the last three months (directory sales growth even stronger in Q2) has left management confident enough to be more optimistic about the rest of the year. This bolsters revived summer bullishness towards the shares (despite a still squeezed UK consumer).

Elsewhere in the retail sector, John Lewis' 50pc profit fall is also the talk of the town with Guy Ellison, head of UK equities at Investec Wealth & Investment saying that the drop indicates "the scale of the restructuring task it faces".

10:24AM

John Lewis profits fall by more than half

Pre-tax profits tumbled by 53.3pc to £26.6m at John Lewis

Profits at John Lewis Partnership have more than halved in the past six months as the group behind the department store chain and Waitrose has been hit by costs associated with overhauling the business and weakened customer demand from inflationary pressures and political uncertainty.

Pre-tax profits tumbled by 53.3pc to £26.6m during the six months to 29 July after it had to absorb £56.4m of costs from making a number of redundancies related to restructuring staff roles at Waitrose and John Lewis as it adapts to changing shopping behaviours.

At John Lewis, total sales grew by 2.3pc, helped by the launch of its new exclusive brand AND/OR, while like-for-like sales edged 0.1pc higher. Operating profits before the exceptional items jumped by 38.7pc to £50.2m.

Read Ashley Armstrong's full report here

10:15AM

Sky takeover referred to the regulator by the Government

The Government has referred the Sky takeover to the regulators 

21st Century Fox's £11.7bn takeover of Sky has been referred to the regulators by culture secretary Karen Bradley, it has been announced in the last few moments. She said that the CMA will have six months to conduct the phase 2 investigation on broadcasting standards and media plurality grounds.

10:08AM

Dissenting voices at BoE will have grown louder this week as inflation rises

The fragility of the UK economy is holding back Mark Carney and co from voting for a hike

The dissenting voices at the Bank of England will have been a little louder this week as ONS figures indicated that the squeeze on households shows no sign of easing with inflation jumping higher than expected to 2.9pc and wage growth stagnant at 2.1pc.

The fragility of the UK economy is holding back Mark Carney and co from backing an interest rate hike but the slowdown in inflation over the summer proved to be a temporary blip.

The markets are currently pricing in a 42.7pc chance of an rate rise before the end of the year and Bank of England governor Mark Carney hinted at the last meeting that the markets had underestimated the chance of a hike.

MUFG currency analyst Lee Hardman believes that the central bank needs to send a hawkish signal to markets to maintain the pound's upward momentum.

He said:

"For the recent pound rally to extend further in the near-term, the BoE will need to send a strong signal today that a hike could be imminent. We doubt such a strong hawkish signal will be delivered today and therefore the pound’s recent upward momentum could start to peter out in the near-term.

"The latest stronger than expected inflation reading for August will have made uncomfortable reading for the BoE. The BoE will also be concerned by the ongoing tightening in the UK labour market which poses upside risks to domestic inflation pressures in the medium-term."

9:33AM

Disappointing Chinese production data pulls down UK miners

The relief rally on stock markets has skidded to a halt this morning with the FTSE 100 pulled down into the red by its huge industrial metal miners.

Glencore, Anglo American and Rio Tinto are all among the biggest laggards this morning as metal prices retreated on poor Chinese production data.

Chinese industrial output grew by 6pc in August, far below the 6.6pc increase expected by economists and bucking the trend shown in recent PMI surveys.

Liberum analyst Richard Knights commented:

"Chinese headline macro data for August was surprisingly weak with headline figures missing survey estimates and falling MoM. We had expected momentum to carry the economy for at least a month longer, given the strong PMIs and recent price action in commodities.

"Following the strong run in the equities since April and the extended positioning in copper and size of iron ore in port stocks (especially with Indian output returning post monsoon), we believe the risks are firmly to the downside for the sector."

9:21AM

Next profits fall 10pc after 'difficult' six months  

Pre-tax profits fell 9.5pc to £309.4m

Profits at Next have slumped by almost 10pc after a “difficult” six months for the bellwether retailer in which shop sales continued to be eclipsed by its online business.

Pre-tax profits fell 9.5pc to £309.4m while total Next sales dropped by 2.2pc to £1.9bn during the six months to the end of July, dragged lower by an 8.3pc drop in store sales.

Meanwhile, the group’s online business, Next Directory, grew sales by 5.7pc over the past six months to £868.4m following a big investment boost, although the bulk of the growth was driven by selling third-party brands rather than Next’s own label.

Despite the fall in profits, the retailer said it had been “encouraged” by trading over the last three months.

Chief executive Lord Simon Wolfson said “our prospects going forward seem to be somewhat less challenging than they did six months ago.”

As a result, Next said it would be “modestly upgrading” its sales and profit guidance for the full year.

Shares have jumped over 11pc in early trading.

Read Ashley Armstrong's full report here

9:05AM

Divide at the Bank of England the focus for the markets

Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane

The divide at the Bank of England over whether to hike interest rates to curb rising inflation will be the focus for the markets at the central bank's latest decision later today.

The departure of Kristin Forbes from the Monetary Policy Committee earlier this year left just two dissenting voices at the central bank calling for an interest rate hike, Michael Saunders and Ian McCafferty. 

The BoE's chief economist Andy Haldane hinted earlier in the summer, however, that he could be tempted to vote for a hike but a temporary easing of inflation persuaded him to remain with the doves.

Inflation jumping higher than the central bank expected earlier this week to 2.9pc sent the pound soaring on the currency markets as hopes of a hike before the end of the year were reignited.

This week's wage growth figures have killed off any chance of a hike this month, however, according to Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell.

He said:

"Wednesday’s worse than forecast average earnings index figure – which came in at just 2.1%, far lower than the 2.6% and 2.9% inflation readings in July and August respectively – likely puts the kibosh on any BoE rate hike this month. However, investors are still interested in hearing any hints as to what exactly it will take to push Mark Carney and co. to act.

"Along those lines, whether anyone joins Michael Saunders and Ian McCafferty on the hawkish side of the divide could be the biggest talking point coming out of the meeting, especially if that person if chief economist Andy Haldane."

8:36AM

Agenda: Bank of England decision under scrutiny by the markets

Mark Carney and the MPC are expected to vote for no change in monetary policy

The devil will be in the detail at the Bank of England's latest policy decision due at noon today with the markets expecting no change to the central bank's monetary policy. Sterling could still be in for a bumpy ride, however, as traders scrutinise how many dissidents voted for a rate hike at the BoE.

Data showing earlier this week that rising inflation is tightening the squeeze on UK households has cranked up the pressure on BoE rate-setters and that could be enough to persuade chief economist Andy Haldane to jump ship to the hawks. 

US CPI will be worth keeping an eye on this afternoon as investors stateside fret over their own rate hike worries. Ahead of a packed day of macro releases, the pound is steady on the forex markets, nudging up to $1.3216 against the dollar.

Disappointing Chinese production data means the mining stocks are weighing heavily on a flat FTSE  100 this morning.

Retailer Next has soared 9pc after "modestly upgrading" its sales and profit guidance for the full year.

Its chief executtive Lord Simon Wolfson said that the bellwether store's prospects "seem to be somewhat less challenging than they did six months ago". 

Interim results: Gresham House, WM Morrison Supermarkets, Corero Network Security, Next, Ophir Energy, Property Franchise Group, GVC Holdings, Regional REIT

AGM: Columbus Energy Resources, Falcon Oil & Gas, JPMorgan Brazil Inv Trust, Miton UK Microcap Trust, Worldwide Healthcare Trust, Colefax Group, Mobeus Income & Growth 2, Datatec, Xafinity, Abzena, Arian Silver Corporation

Full-year results: Ricardo

Trading statement: Booker Group, Safestore Holdings

Economics: Retail Sales m/m (UK), Official Bank Rate (UK), MPC Asset Purchase Facility Votes (UK), MPC Official Bank Rate Votes (UK), Asset Purchase Facility (UK), Monetary Policy Summary (UK),  Unemployment Claims (US), CPI m/m (US)