Bank of England keeps interest rates unchanged, in line with market expectations

Mark Carney announces Bank of England cut in interest ratesITN

The Bank of England said on Thursday (15 September) that it has decided to keep the UK's benchmark interest rate unchanged at 0.25%, a decision that was widely expected by economists.

At the conclusion of its latest Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting, the bank revealed it opted against cutting interest rates again, after halving the benchmark in August in response to worsening survey data following the country's decision to leave the European Union.

The MPC also voted unanimously to continue with the programme of £60bn in UK government bond purchases to take the total stock of them to £435bn ($576.1bn).

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Prior to last month, the benchmark rate had been stable at 0.5% since March 2009, when the global financial crisis made its impact felt on the UK economy.

Andrew Sentance, senior economic adviser at PwC, said it was no surprise the Bank of England opted to keep interest rates on hold. "The economic data since their August decision has been broadly reassuring - including today's retail sales figures," he explained.

"There appears to have been a short-term confidence shock in July but that was linked to the political turmoil after the Brexit decision.

"Businesses and consumers appear to have taken the decision in their stride and are continuing very much as normal, though a period of slower growth is still likely because of the uncertainty surrounding the UK's future relationship with the rest of the EU."

In its statement, the MPC said it voted unanimously to keep the rates unchanged, adding it expects the UK economy to slow down less than expected in the second half of 2016.

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, indicated the a further rate cut was still on the cards, but it might not be enough to support the economy.

"Monetary policy has become less potent," he said.

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"A slight fall in borrowing costs likely will do little to tip the balance towards investment for firms, given heightened levels of uncertainty about the economy's medium-term outlook. As such, the onus will still be on the Government to pare back the severe fiscal squeeze planned for the next few years in the Autumn Statement."

Data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) earlier showed retail sales increased more than expected on the back of a very strong display from food stores, while July figures were revised to show a bigger rebound than the one that was initially recorded.

When factoring in sales at petrol stations, retail sales increased 6.2%, from an upwardly revised 6.3% gain in July and compared with consensus for a 5.4% increase. On a monthly basis, retail sales including auto fuel fell 0.2%, against expectations for a 0.4% drop and 1.9% gain in the previous month. July's figure was revised up from the initial 1.4% estimate.

Meanwhile, figures published on Tuesday showed the rate of inflation in the UK missed forecast last month.

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According to the ONS, the consumer price index (CPI) inflation grew 0.6% year-on-year in August, in line with the previous month's advance but slightly lower than the 0.7% analysts expected.

On a monthly basis, CPI rose 0.3%, rebounding from a 0.1% decline in July but falling short of the forecast 0.4% increase.

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