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Bank of England Chief Economist Urges Persistent Monetary Restraint to Tackle Inflation

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Bank of England Chief Economist Huw Pill has expressed the view that it is crucial for interest rates to remain at their current level in order to control inflation. This represents a shift in his previous stance, where he had discussed the possibility of rate cuts next year. The Bank of England (BoE) had previously announced that its main interest rate would remain at 5.25% for an extended period.

Pill’s comments come as British consumer price inflation remains the highest among large advanced economies, standing at 6.7% in September. While the BoE expects a significant drop in inflation data for October, it anticipates that it will take two more years for inflation to return to its target of 2%.

During a presentation to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), Pill highlighted the need for a persistent and restrictive monetary policy to address the current inflationary situation. He acknowledged that despite a recent slowdown in growth, certain domestic inflation pressures, such as rapid private-sector wage growth, have not yet eased, raising concerns about the medium-term outlook for inflation.

Pill clarified that he does not believe a further rate rise is necessary, but he pointed out that the BoE’s inflation forecasts are based on market pricing leading up to the recent decision to maintain high interest rates. These forecasts assume an average interest rate of 5.1% in the final quarter of 2023, potentially indicating a quarter-point cut at that time, and rates of 4.5% in late 2025.

Following Pill’s remarks, interest rate sensitive two-year gilt yields experienced a significant drop to a five-month low, while rate futures indicated a higher than 50% chance of a rate cut by June 2024, with rates potentially falling to 4.75% by the end of next year.

However, BoE Governor Andrew Bailey emphasized on Wednesday that it is premature to discuss rate cuts, suggesting that it is too soon to make any decisions in that regard.

Pill’s comments on Thursday led to a rise in two-year gilt yields, and rate futures scaled back expectations for a June rate cut, although they still anticipate at least two quarter-point cuts next year.

Pill also emphasized that central bank comments on the outlook for monetary policy should not be interpreted as firm commitments, but rather as plausible scenarios. He highlighted the current focus on events in the Middle East, which could have implications for global economic conditions.

It is important to note that Pill’s remarks do not guarantee any immediate change to the BoE’s monetary policy. The decision to adjust interest rates will depend on a thorough assessment of economic data and developments both domestically and globally. The BoE remains committed to maintaining price stability and managing inflation effectively.

In conclusion, Pill’s recent shift in tone regarding interest rate cuts has sparked discussions and market speculation. However, the BoE has reiterated that it is too soon to make any definitive decisions regarding rate cuts. The decision will ultimately depend on the assessment of various economic factors and the bank’s commitment to managing inflation effectively.

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