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“The MPC kept monetary policy on hold, in a unanimous decision that was widely expected,” notes  Bill Diviney, Senior Economist at ABN AMRO.

Key quotes

“The Quarterly Inflation Report had a slight hawkish bias, with the projection for a positive output gap brought forward from Q4 20 to Q4 19, although the magnitude of the change – 0.25pp – was marginal. Nonetheless, two factors lead us to believe the BoE may tighten a little more than the ‘good rule of thumb’ of 1 rate hike per year that Governor Carney had previously indicated.”

“First, the Bank’s assumptions did not take account of the Chancellor’s recent Budget announcement, which was surprisingly expansionary – and is likely to add c.0.3pp to 2019 GDP growth according to OBR estimates. Second, in the press conference, Governor Carney indicated that a Brexit deal based on Chequers would be ‘above’ the average of the range of outcomes on which the BoE conditions its forecasts, and so such a deal would likely lead the BoE to raise its growth and inflation forecasts should that transpire. We continue to expect one rate hike in both 2019 and 2020 as a base case, but the risk looks tilted towards an additional rate hike over that horizon.”

Aside from the base case, Governor Carney fielded persistent questioning over the MPC’s reaction function in the risk scenario of a No-deal Brexit. Similar to what he had reportedly told the Cabinet recently, he stated that the MPC’s reaction would not be ‘automatic’ and could be ‘in either direction’. We believe the nuance in this statement is important – countering an expectation that the reaction would be automatic. In reality, the MPC’s bias would still likely be for easing rather than tightening, given that such a scenario would probably drive a sharp decline in business and consumer confidence, but that policy could well remain on hold if the hit to supply is greater than that to demand. For policy to be tightened, we think a significant rise in inflation expectations would be necessary.”