Bank of England keeps rates steady, two policymakers unexpectedly back hike

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With the terms of the transition expected to be confirmed Thursday at a meeting of European Union leaders, many economists think there will be few obstacles to the Bank of England raising rates again in May, when it will also publish its new quarterly economic projections.

The currency, which has rallied lately on expectations of a May rate hike, was up another 0.1 percent at $1.4149.

Minutes of the latest MPC meeting revealed Ian McCafferty and Michael Saunders voted to raise rates to 0.75% amid concerns over inflation as wage growth has started to pick up.

The bank voted to leave monetary policy frozen as was widely expected, but two policymakers voted to hike interest rates.

After the Bank of England kept its main interest rate on hold at 0.5 percent, as expected, Peter Urwin, professor at the Westminster Business School, said the transition deal has "sealed the case for a rate rise in May" as it "pushes any significant economic hit into 2019 and beyond".

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, speaks to the Scottish Economics Forum, via a live feed, in central London, Britain March 2, 2018.

British retail sales volumes rose 0.8 percent in February from January, the Office for National Statistics said, above the consensus forecast in a Reuters poll of economists for a monthly rise of 0.4 percent, and after dropping 0.2 percent in January.

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The panel raised the benchmark rate for the first time in a decade in November and telegraphed that further increases are likely over the next couple of years to keep inflation in check. In its February projections, the Bank of England said it expects inflation to remain above target for another year or two, supporting predictions for at least one more rate hike this year.

This week's economic data have shown inflation at 2.7 percent and above the 2 percent target, and wages on the up.

Fast forward to early 2018 and United Kingdom worker pay is rising, finally, and faster than expected - as Michael Saunders and Ian McCafferty warned at midday.

In his speech on Thursday, Ramsden said the rise of fintech could help Britain improve its long-standing problem of weak productivity growth as well as help the BoE improve its internal infrastructure. The transition period is expected to last until the end of 2020.

It said in pursuing its objective of a 2% inflation rate the "main challenges for the Committee had continued to be to assess the economic implications of the United Kingdom withdrawing from the European Union and to identify the appropriate policy response to that changing outlook, including to the substantial depreciation of sterling that had been associated with the decision". This was seen at the time as likely to spur more hawkish rhetoric from the BoE given that wage growth can exert upward pressure on inflation.

"Traders have been pricing in a 75% chance of a first rate hike in May, so this March meeting was never going to shock the markets with an even earlier rise".

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