When will interest rates rise?

Britain's recovery is gaining momentum, increasing the pressure on the Bank of England to raise interest rates.

The latest data suggest that the UK's economic recovery is gaining momentum. A survey of the services sector, which accounts for about 75% of the economy, reached an eight-month high in July. Housebuilding activity grew at the fastest rate since 2003.

House prices are rising at an annual rate of 10.2%, according to Halifax, the fastest pace since 2007. Sterling is a headwind for exporters, however, which helps explain subdued official figures for manufacturing growth in June.

What the commentators said

Research from Citigroup shows that UK companies' balance sheets are at their healthiest in at least 50 years. Their cash reserves, which in June rose at a rate not seen since 2007, are now worth a record 77.1% of the value of their bank debts, compared to 45% in 2008.

Firms have already been loosening their purse strings. Now we can expect a corporate "spending spree", which will further bolster hiring.

With growth strengthening analysts are pencilling in a GDP increase of 3% in 2014 attention is turning to the timing of the first interest-rate hike. Larry Elliott in The Guardian highlighted an interesting feature of the services survey: "firms are reporting that they are starting to raise wages".

Official data has yet to pick up this trend. This week's services report "provides ammunition" to those who say "it is only a matter of time" before growth of 3% and sliding unemployment feed through to higher wages, and that "there is a danger of the bank falling behind the curve".

Quite right there is, said Andrew Sentance, a former rate-setter on the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, in The Times. The basic point is that with growth of 3%, "the emergency conditions that prompted a reduction of the official bank rate to 0.5% have long passed".

So why are we waiting for the first hike? We are running out of spare capacity that could curb inflationary pressure. The British Chambers of Commence is reporting the highest number of companies working above normal capacity since its survey began in 1989.

There may be no inflationary pressure in the official data yet, but it probably won't be long in coming. Time to get on with it.

Recommended

When will interest rates go up?
UK Economy

When will interest rates go up?

Interest rates are now at 4%, and they could rise further in the months ahead.
3 Feb 2023
Will energy prices go down in 2023?
Personal finance

Will energy prices go down in 2023?

Wholesale gas prices are on a downward trajectory, but does this mean lower energy bills later this year?
27 Jan 2023
Which house-price index is the best?
Property

Which house-price index is the best?

Britain is obsessed with house prices, and we have at least four house-price indices to choose from to measure the rate of increase in the value of ou…
27 Jan 2023
What makes up the price of a litre of petrol?
Budget

What makes up the price of a litre of petrol?

The cost of filling the average car with fuel is falling. Here’s what makes up the price of a litre of petrol.
10 Jan 2023

Most Popular

NS&I brings back one-year fixed bonds with highest rates since 2010
Personal finance

NS&I brings back one-year fixed bonds with highest rates since 2010

NS&I’s one-year fixed bonds are back on sale after being pulled off the market in 2019 - but is the rate any good?
1 Feb 2023
Bank of England raises interest rate to 4%
Economy

Bank of England raises interest rate to 4%

The Bank of England raised rates by 0.5%, marking the base rate’s 10th consecutive increase.
2 Feb 2023
When will interest rates go up?
UK Economy

When will interest rates go up?

Interest rates are now at 4%, and they could rise further in the months ahead.
3 Feb 2023