'Wages won't keep up:' UK central bank says inflation biting


Asked by ITV's economics editor Noreena Hertz to explain in layman's terms what is likely to happen to wages in the coming years - something the bank warned about in the Inflation Report - Carney distilled into a few sentences exactly what the downside of voting to leave the European Union will have, and is already having, on household finances.

The UK economy shrugged off expectations of a recession after last year's referendum, and chalked up one of the fastest growth rates among major rich economies.

Economic growth pulled back sharply to 0.3% in the first three months of the year, from 0.7% in the previous three months after a sharper-than-expected fall in consumer spending.

The Bank slashed its prediction for average wage growth to 2%, significantly down from February's estimate of 3%.

Mr Carney today said: "The economy is still growing solidly".

The Bank's forecasts are based on a "smooth" adjustment to a new trading relationship with the European Union after Brexit, the MPC said.

While not visibly concerned about the economic outlook, Carney did say that sterling weakness caused by the Brexit vote left British consumers with less spare cash. While the BoE expects this to be revised up, official data earlier on Thursday showed industrial output was in fact weaker than originally thought.

BoE says the outlook for United Kingdom growth will continue to be influenced by the response of households, companies and financial market participants to the UK's departure from the European Union, including their assumptions about the nature and timing of post-Brexit trading arrangements. However, low rates are likely to entice more people into the mortgage market.

BoE Governor Mark Carney said sterling's appreciation since Prime Minister Theresa May announced a June 8 snap election last month possibly reflected market expectations of a more orderly Brexit.

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Ben Brettell, senior economist at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "The Bank warned that rates may have to rise sooner and faster than the market now expects".

The MPC expects growth to remain at current rates for the rest of the year, blaming the slowdown on consumer-facing sectors, partly reflecting the effect of sterling's depreciation on spending.

However, for the first time in at least three years, the Bank also predicted that at 2.8% this year, inflation was set to outpace earnings growth, which will be only 2%.

It also stressed that its forecasts were based on the assumption of a "smooth" Brexit, implying no cliff-edge disruption to trade and investment in 2019.

Monetary policy committee (MPC) members voted 7-1 to hold rates at a record low of 0.25%, in a widely expected move.

MPC members voted 7-1 in favour of keeping the interest rates unchanged, with U.S. economist Kristin Forbes the only dissenter.

However, the Bank of England said it expected a pick-up in foreign trade and investment would offset a shortfall in domestic demand this year. "Interestingly, in slight contradiction to its other comments, the Bank does acknowledge that they must balance the trade-off between returning inflation to target quickly and supporting jobs/activity - and that this trade-off is present "through most of the forecast period'".

While inflation, now at 2.3 per cent, would likely peak at close to three per cent in late 2017, the Bank forecast the pound would pick up after the general election.