LONDON, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- The governor of the Bank of England (BoE) warned on Thursday that interest rates would rise sooner than markets expected.
The warning from governor Mark Carney came as he delivered the quarterly BoE inflation report.
Governor Carney warned markets in a press conference to "expect that in order to return inflation sustainably to target ... it will probably be necessary to raise interest rates ... somewhat earlier and to a somewhat greater extent than we had thought in November."
At the time of the previous inflation report in November Carney had told markets to expect the era of loose monetary policy to be over, as the BoE was considering, in line with the movement's of the U.S. Federal Reserve, to further raise the bank rate.
The rate had been at an historic low of 0.25 percent, set in August 2016 to counter anticipated headwinds from the Brexit vote, but the bank raised it by 25 basis points in November.
Its forecasts at the time indicated there could be two more increases of 0.25 percent over three years.
The rate had returned to 0.5 percent, a level it had previously held since early 2009. The rate rise was the first increase in the rate since July 2007.
But Carney's language was ramped up on Thursday, and he also said he had the complete support of the nine-member rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).
"The MPC has clearly taken a more hawkish stance," Dr Howard Archer, senior economic adviser with EY ITEM, a London-based financial analysis firm, told Xinhua on Thursday.
"With the economy seemingly now on a firmer footing, borne out by a modest upgrading of the 2018 GDP growth forecast in the Inflation Report and slack limited and diminishing, the MPC believes there is a reduced case to tolerate above target inflation.
"Specifically, the minutes observe that if the economy develops as now expected in the February Inflation Report monetary policy would need to be tightened" Archer said.
INFLATION REMAINS ABOVE TARGET
Key to the BoE's rate-decision-making process is inflation, and Thursday also saw the release of the quarterly inflation report.
The BoE's primary economic target is to keep inflation at 2 percent, but the report says that the high rate of inflation, currently at 3 percent, could rise a little more and will certainly remain above the target level in the coming months.
Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation was 0.5 percent at the time of the Brexit referendum vote in June 2016, and the surprise vote by Britain to quit the European Union (EU) deeply troubled foreign exchange markets who sent sterling into a sharp downward plunge from 1.48 U.S. dollars to 1.22 U.S. dollars.
This sharp fall has been good for exporters, as the BoE's inflation report noted, but has fuelled the steep rise in inflation through higher commodity and supply chain costs as well as more expensive imports.
The BoE now sees CPI inflation falling back to 2.4 percent by end-2018, 2.2 percent by end-2019 and 2.1 percent by end-2020. Inflation is seen stabilizing at 2.1 percent in the first quarter of 2021.
The inflation report forecasts a modest upgrade in growth from its November report, up to 1.8 percent increase in GDP growth this year and 1.7 percent next year.
But the British economy was structurally reassessed in the report, and found wanting in productivity, which it is forecast will now provide an upper limit to growth.
Archer said: "Following a reassessment of the supply side of the economy which included lowering its estimate of the equilibrium unemployment rate from 4.5 percent to 4.25 percent, the Bank of England believes that the UK only has a capacity to grow by 1.5 percent annually over the forecast horizon period."
He added: "This means that growth in demand is expected to exceed that of supply over 2018-2020 with the result that 'a small margin of excess demand emerges by early 2020 and builds thereafter,' generating persistent upward pressure on inflation."