Cisco’s Bright Outlook for Expanding China EV Joint Venture

Cisco’s Bright Outlook for Expanding China EV Joint Venture

General view of the Bank of England building in London.

LONDON – The Bank of England announced its decision to keep interest rates steady at its June meeting, but described the move as “finely balanced” after the UK hit its 2% inflation target.

Money market prices pointed to a nearly 50% chance of a rate cut in August, as investors interpreted a subtly dovish message.

The central bank’s key interest rate stands at 5.25%, its highest level in 16 years, held since August.

Seven members of the monetary policy committee voted in favor of maintaining the rate, while two supported a 25 basis point cut, mirroring the outcome of the May meeting. One basis point represents one hundredth of a percentage point.

In its statement, the Monetary Policy Committee stressed that inflation had reached the central bank’s target and mentioned a softening of indicators related to “near-term inflation expectations” and wage growth.

The OAG (Office for National Statistics) added that uncertainty over estimates of labor market activity made it “very difficult to assess its evolution”.

Reiterating an earlier message that had sparked speculation about potential easing, the Bank of England stressed the need for monetary policy to “remain restrictive for a sufficiently long period to sustainably return inflation to the 2% target”.

Inflation data on Wednesday showed headline price increases cooled to 2% in May, beating the target ahead of the US and the euro zone, despite the UK seeing its sharpest spike in inflation in two years.

However, economists noted that persistently high utility rates and underlying inflation in the UK imply the potential for continued upward pressure.

The central bank’s decision to keep rates unchanged comes just two weeks before a general election, with the state of the economy and proposals to revive sluggish growth being major battlegrounds.

Governor Andrew Bailey stressed that the politically independent BOE will continue to focus on its own data, despite speculation that it may act more cautiously after the next election.

‘Finely balanced’

Attention has now shifted to the possibility of a rate cut in August. Money market prices indicated a nearly 50% chance of this following Thursday’s statement, higher than the previous day.

Among the seven members who voted in favour, the OAG noted disagreement regarding the level of accumulated evidence needed to justify a cut, making their decision “finely balanced”.

Some members believed that key indicators of inflation persistence “remain elevated”, expressing concerns about services, strong domestic demand and wage growth. Others, however, argued that higher-than-expected services inflation in May had not had a significant impact on the UK’s overall disinflationary trajectory.

Ruth Gregory, deputy chief UK economist at Capital Economics, suggested that several developments point to a rate cut, including the “finely balanced” commentary and the fact that the BOE’s overall tone has not become more hawkish as expected.

James Smith, developed markets economist at ING, said the chance of an interest rate cut this summer was higher than the 30-40% that markets had previously expected.

“I think the inflation numbers, services inflation… I think the road is still open, and I think they (the BoE) will remain reasonably confident,” Smith said in an interview.

He further added: “A bit like the (European Central Bank), I think they have more confidence in their ability to predict inflation than maybe 6-12 months ago.”

While several central banks in Europe have already begun to ease monetary policy, including the ECB, the Swiss National Bank and the Swedish Riksbank, the US Federal Reserve, often seen as the leading central bank, has left traders unsure about the timing of its first rate cut. Market data suggests a 65% chance of a September cut in the US.

GBP’s losses extended against the US dollar: the currency fell 0.3% to $1.267 at 1pm in London.

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