Bank of England poised to raise interest rates

By Ed Conway, economics editor
The Bank of England is poised to lift interest rates from their financial crisis lows for the first time in almost a decade.
The Bank's Monetary Policy Committee is widely expected to increase the cost of borrowing from 0.5% to 0.75% on Thursday.
The decision, which will be announced alongside the Bank's quarterly Inflation Report, would bring to an end nine and a half years in which Bank rate was at or below 0.5%.Economists said they expected a split vote among the nine member MPC, but said that strong employment growth, above-target inflation and a relatively robust economy made the decision likely.They pointed out that higher rates would allow the Bank more room for manoeuvre if there is a future crisis, or in the event of a hard Brexit.However, some economists said that the economy was not yet strong enough to withstand higher interest rates.
With levels of household debt rising in recent years, some campaigners are concerned that many families will struggle to afford the consequent increase in their mortgage costs.However, the proportion of families on floating rate mortgages, which will be affected immediately, is now at the lowest level in recorded history.The Bank is also expected to reveal its estimate for the long-term neutral level for interest rates, a signal of how high borrowing costs could eventually go.
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Before the crisis that rate was thought to be around 5%, but a combination of the crisis and recent Brexit-related uncertainty is thought to have reduced the neutral rate to around 2-3%.Market watchers said the interest rate decision was unlikely to cause dramatic moves in the pound, or in stock markets, since it was widely expected.
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