Excerpts from the Monetary Policy Summary:
The MPC set out its most recent detailed assessment of the economic outlook in the May Inflation Report. Relative to those projections, there has been limited news on the outlook for the global economy. Growth in the United Kingdom’s major trading partners is expected to continue at a modest pace over the next three years. In China and other emerging markets, the prospects for activity are little changed and medium-term risks remain to the downside. Commodity prices have risen since the Committee’s May Report, however, with sterling oil prices in particular having increased by around 10%.
While consumer spending has been solid, there is growing evidence that uncertainty about the referendum is leading to delays to major economic decisions that are costly to reverse, including commercial and residential real estate transactions, car purchases, and business investment. As the Committee has previously noted, potential referendum effects are making economic data releases more difficult to interpret, and the Committee is being more cautious in drawing inferences from them than would normally be the case.
Consistent with the projections and conditioning assumptions set out in the May Report, including a gentle rise in interest rates over the forecast period, the MPC judges that it is more likely than not that Bank Rate will need to be higher by the end of the forecast period than at present to ensure inflation returns to the target in a sustainable manner. All members agree that, given the likely persistence of the headwinds weighing on the economy, when Bank Rate does begin to rise, it is expected to do so more gradually and to a lower level than in recent cycles. This guidance is an expectation, not a promise. The actual path Bank Rate will follow over the next few years will depend on economic circumstances.
As the Committee set out last month, the most significant risks to the MPC’s forecast concern the referendum. A vote to leave the EU could materially alter the outlook for output and inflation, and therefore the appropriate setting of monetary policy. Households could defer consumption and firms delay investment, lowering labour demand and causing unemployment to rise. Through financial market and confidence channels, there are also risks of adverse spill-overs to the global economy. At the same time, supply growth is likely to be lower over the forecast period, reflecting slower capital accumulation and the need to reallocate resources. Sterling is also likely to depreciate further, perhaps sharply. This combination of influences on demand, supply and the exchange rate could lead to a materially lower path for growth and a notably higher path for inflation than in the central projections set out in the May Inflation Report. In such circumstances, the MPC would face a trade-off between stabilising inflation on the one hand and output and employment on the other. The implications for the direction of monetary policy will depend on the relative magnitudes of the demand, supply and exchange rate effects. The MPC will take whatever action is needed, following the outcome of the referendum, to ensure that inflation expectations remain well anchored and inflation returns to the target over the appropriate horizon.