The Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) today voted to maintain base rate at 4.5%.
“The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply reported this week that its index had fallen from 58.9 in February to 57.4 in March. On top of this was weaker than expected manufacturing data, with factory production falling 0.2% in February after a small increase in the previous month. The weaker data provides little support to the Bank of England forecast that the UK economy would grow 0.6% in the first three months of this year.
“Retail sales data has also been disappointing, with sales falling 1.6% in January before staging a moderate recovery in February. Consumer spending remains a key indicator of the UK economy, accounting for around two thirds of gross domestic product and softer data such as this suggests that an economic growth forecast by the Bank of England of 2.7% may be a little optimistic.
"Activity in the housing market is also showing signs of moderating, with what appears to be more muted levels of confidence and a softening in mortgage approvals. "Overall, data released over the past few weeks suggests that the Bank is more likely to cut interest rates than previously predicted. Consequently, 10-year gilt yields are now slightly lower since the end of March at 4.37%. This is after yields had steadily risen by around 0.25% in March.
"In terms of the equity markets, the focus remains on mergers and acquisitions activity, although the prospect of lower interest rates has had a positive effect on the market. The FTSE 100 Index has broken through the key 6000 level and is now standing at 6039, up around 7.5% since the start of the year.”
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