LONDON – The Bank of England forecast steady if unspectacular growth for the U.K. in the years ahead--provided the country's exit from the European Union goes smoothly.
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In its latest set of economic forecasts, the central bank estimated that gross domestic product growth in the U.K. would increase slightly to 1.9% in 2017, as a pickup in exports and business investment helped offset a squeeze on consumer spending from rising prices.
Officials held the central bank's benchmark interest rate steady at 0.25% and signaled there was no rush to raise borrowing costs from record lows, despite above-target inflation. They did say, though, that interest rates might need to rise more quickly than the glacial pace expected by investors, who doubt the central bank will move until well into 2019.
This comes ahead of a June 8 national election in the U.K. and negotiations between London and Brussels over the terms of the country's exit from the European Union.
Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is seen pressing ahead in the U.S. with a gradual rise in borrowing costs in 2017 and the European Central Bank is considering gently dialing back stimulus measures in the 19-country eurozone.
The BOE said Thursday the latest forecast assumed a "smooth" Brexit, with a transition period that largely preserves current trading and other arrangements beyond its three-year forecast period.
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Minutes of the Monetary Policy Committee's discussions this month showed a majority favored keeping the central bank's main interest rate steady. One panel member, former White House economic adviser Kristin Forbes, dissented, voting for an immediate increase in the rate to curb inflation.
The central bank sees annual inflation peaking in 2017 at 2.8%--well in excess of its 2% target--before easing off in 2018. Officials say the surge in price growth is being driven primarily by a weakened pound and that this effect will eventually fade.
The European Commission raised its U.K. growth forecasts for the second time in six months on Thursday, saying it didn't now expect a slowdown in 2017 in response to the country's Brexit vote on June 2016.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 11, 2017 07:42 ET (11:42 GMT)