Bank of England hikes interest rate tenth time in row

LONDON – The Bank of England on Thursday hiked its interest rate for a tenth time in a row as global authorities race to combat sky-high inflation.

It also forecast a shallower-than-expected UK recession this year.

The BoE voted at a regular meeting to lift its key interest rate by a half-point to 4.0 percent, the highest level since late 2008.

The hike was double the lift announced by the US Federal Reserve on Wednesday, while the European Central Bank will unveil its latest rate decision at 1315 GMT.

BoE policymakers voted 7-2 in favour of the rate increase, with a minority calling for no change, according to minutes from the gathering.

The BoE predicted that this year’s UK economic downturn would be milder than it previously forecast, noting that inflation was “likely” to have peaked in many advanced economies.

UK inflation, which sits close to a 40-year peak, was expected to continue to decline “gradually” in the first half of 2023 as energy prices retreat, the minutes added.

Central banks are seeking to cool high energy and prices, fuelled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine one year ago.

Thursday’s announcement will likely worsen Britain’s cost-of-living crisis because commercial lenders will now ramp up their own interest rates on credit cards, mortgages and other loans.

That will further squeeze cash-strapped Britons who are buckling under rampant consumer prices alongside rising household bills and transport costs.

Britain was gripped by strikes this week as public and private sector workers protest over pay that has failed to keep pace with inflation.

UK inflation slowed to 10.5 percent in December, but this is more than five times the BoE’s official target level of two percent.

The BoE began to tighten monetary policy in December 2021, when its rate stood at a record-low 0.1 percent. –AFP