Home Finance Bank of England Holds Rates Steady, Pound Slumps to March Lows

Bank of England Holds Rates Steady, Pound Slumps to March Lows

The British pound experienced a notable decline to its lowest level since March, while British equities displayed resilience amid broader market dynamics. This situation unfolded following the Bank of England’s (BoE) decision to keep interest rates unchanged, a move that came in the wake of a less-than-anticipated rise in inflation, according to data released the day before.

As of 1345 GMT, the pound had retreated by 0.53% to $1.2278. Earlier in the trading session, it had touched its lowest point since late March at $1.2231 shortly after the BoE’s announcement. Prior to the policy meeting outcome, it had been trading approximately 0.4% lower at $1.23.

The FTSE 100 stock index of Britain initially experienced losses but later rebounded slightly, with a decline of 0.19%. It even briefly entered positive territory, with a boost from rate-sensitive real estate and homebuilder stocks. Prior to the BoE’s decision, the index had slumped by 0.7%.

The FTSE 250 index, which represents mid-cap stocks, also managed to recover from its losses and was down just 0.2% at the time. Both the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 outperformed the pan-European STOXX 600 index, which recorded a decline of approximately 1.1%.

Frances Haque, UK Chief Economist at Santander, emphasized that the focus now turns to whether this rate pause will continue or if another rate hike will be necessary in November.

Following the BoE’s statement, the yield on Britain’s 10-year benchmark bond fluctuated but ultimately remained relatively unchanged, up 9 basis points at 4.302%.

The BoE’s decision to hold interest rates steady was somewhat unexpected given the recent trajectory of economic data. British inflation figures for August, which indicated a slowdown in price growth, had led to the reevaluation of the central bank’s monetary policy stance.

Interestingly, the FTSE 100 stock index of Britain, after initially experiencing a decline, managed to recover some of its losses, ultimately registering a modest drop of 0.19%. At one point, the index had dipped by 0.7% before the BoE’s decision. This reversal of fortunes was attributed to gains in rate-sensitive real estate and homebuilder stocks.

Similarly, the FTSE 250 index, which tracks mid-cap stocks, also showed resilience by paring back its losses to end just 0.2% lower. Both the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 outperformed the pan-European STOXX 600 index, which experienced a more significant decline of approximately 1.1%.

The BoE’s Monetary Policy Committee’s decision was characterized by a narrow 5-4 vote in favor of maintaining the benchmark rate at 5.25%. This closely contested decision illustrated the nuanced approach taken by the central bank in navigating the current economic landscape.

Looking ahead, the trajectory of BoE rates remains uncertain, with market participants adjusting their expectations based on incoming economic data. The average prediction in derivatives markets indicated an anticipation of BoE rates reaching 5.37% by early 2024, a slight reduction from the approximately 5.42% projection prior to the BoE’s decision.

The yield on Britain’s benchmark 10-year bond initially exhibited

 some volatility in response to the BoE’s announcement but ultimately settled at a level similar to its position before the central bank’s statement. This yield rose by 9 basis points to reach 4.302%.

As market participants absorb the BoE’s latest decision and evaluate its implications for the British economy, a sense of uncertainty prevails regarding the future direction of monetary policy in the UK. The central bank’s cautious approach underscores the delicate balance it seeks to strike in supporting economic growth while managing inflationary pressures. Ultimately, the evolution of economic data will play a pivotal role in shaping the BoE’s policy decisions in the coming months.

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