When will interest rates rise (or in fact be cut)? – Latest predictions
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When will interest rates go up or be cut?
In summary: The market had been been predicting that the Bank of England (BOE) would increase interest rates, from 0.25%, in 2018 at the earliest. However after the latest BOE rate setting meeting it hinted strongly that interest rates could go up in November or December 2017 due to higher than anticipated inflation and economic growth. Below I explain what you should be doing now and what will determine when interest rates will go up.
Should you fix your mortgage rate now?
With the Bank of England (BOE) now strongly hinting that interest rates are likely to rise in the coming months you should seriously consider whether to fix your mortgage now. Some of the best fixed rate mortgage deals were already rising before the BOE’s surprise move, this trend is now likely to continue and possibly accelerate. If you are wondering whether you should fix your mortgage rate now then reading the rest of this article will help you decide. However, the simplest route, which I’d strongly recommend, is to speak to a mortgage adviser. If you don’t know a mortgage adviser whose opinion you trust, then follow these simple steps to get a free mortgage review in 30 seconds from a vetted FCA regulated mortgage professional:
- Click the link above
- Answer the four multiple choice questions about your situation
- Enter your email etc
- Then select the “Review my Mortgage” button
It’s as easy as that. Then an expert mortgage adviser will check if you are eligible to remortgage for free and with no obligation. They will also tell you precisely how much you could save. Typically the free remortgage check saves people around £80 per month per £100,0000 of mortgage.
How the Bank of England base rate is set
The forecasting of the Bank of England base rate has been transformed in recent years. First of all when Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England (BOE), took the job he issued new ‘forward guidance’ on when the Bank of England will raise interest rates or reduce interest rates.
This was a policy which he employed during his previous role in Canada’s Central Bank to try and control the market’s expectations of when interest rates will rise. The reason for doing this is that an expectation of a rate rise is as important as the actual rate rise itself. If a market thinks that the BOE will increase rates then the cost of borrowing throughout the economy will rise. This can prove damaging for a stuttering economic recovery, meanwhile artificially low interest rates also make cash deposits unattractive, which in turn boosts consumer and corporate spending.
Mark Carney originally created a notional link between the UK unemployment rate and the BOE base rate. In a pledge to keep rates lower for longer Mark Carney said that rates would not rise until UK unemployment fell below 7%. But this threshold was hit, somewhat unexpectedly, so Mark Carney had to ditch the unemployment trigger when it looked like a breach was imminent, instead replacing it with 18 economic indicators.
Then in August 2015 there was a change to the way the Bank of England communicated its view on when interest rates will go up or be cut. Historically, on the first Thursday of every month the Bank of England announced its decision on the base rate. However, it did not release the meeting minutes until two weeks later. It is these minutes that investment markets scrutinise for any hints of when rates might go up in the future. For example, they would see how many of the 9 person committee voted for interest rates to go up, down or stay the same. However from August 2015 both the interest rate decision and the minutes are released on the same day (dubbed Super Thursday by the press). This means that there is now even greater transparency from the Bank of England surrounding their interest rate decision. So the upshot is that if you are at all concerned about when interest rates will rise or be cut you need to keep an eye on the news on the first Thursday of each month.
When does the market think mortgage rates will next rise or be cut?
Mark Carney has moved the goal posts numerous times on when interest rates will likely go up. Of course, when interest rates rise or fall mortgage rates will follow suit. Below is a short plotted history of the latest views:
- After much speculation that interest rates would finally go up in 2015 it didn’t happen because inflation suddenly turned negative. For an economy to attain a healthy level of growth the BOE aims for an official inflation target of 2%. Raising rates tends to send inflation lower, therefore the BOE left them on hold.
- As we entered 2016 Mark Carney stated that it was not the time raise interest rates as the UK economy was not strong enough. As a result the expected date of the first interest rate rise moved from early 2017 to early 2020! Yet all this was prior to the UK’s EU referendum.
- The Brexit vote was a huge game-changer. Previous talk was all about when interest rates would go up. Suddenly the talk was that because the UK had decided to leave the European Union there was a chance of an economic slump, although there has been little sign of this to date. So concerned was Mark Carney and the Bank of England that they decided to cut interest rates from 0.5% to 0.25% in August 2016 and launch a new bout of Quantitative Easing (QE) to try and stimulate economic growth.
- Minutes from the August 2016 meeting stated that most members of the MPC expected another interest rate cut, possibly to 0%, before the end of 2016. This never materialised.
- Yet the UK economy has proved surprisingly resilient since the EU referendum. It has lead some people, even Prime Minster Theresa May, to suggest that the BOE overreacted when it cut interest rates.
- The almost 15% fall in the value of the pound since the Brexit vote has caused inflation to spike (see later). In fact inflation may hit 4% next year (more than twice the official target). To give this some perspective, before the referendum the BOE was predicting that inflation would struggle to get above 2% over the next two years. Obviously high inflation tends to lead to higher interest rates.
- The Bank of England is now so concerned about inflation that in June 2017 it revealed that the interest rate committee (known as the MPC) almost decided to raise interest rates. This sent markets into a bit of frenzy that interest rates would go up in 2017. It didn’t help that Mark Carney and a number of his MPC colleagues hinted as much in a number of subsequent press conferences. But inflation then unexpectedly dipped as there were renewed signs of weakness in the UK’s economic growth as a result of the Brexit vote. This helped calm the market’s jitters that interest rates might be about to rise, until this month anyway.
- In September 2017 the Bank of England announced that while they were keeping interest rates on hold stubbornly high inflation and low unemployment increased the likelihood that interest rates would now rise in November of December 2017. Prior to their statement the market had priced in the first interest rate rise to occur by March 2018 and then to rise again in the second half of 2019 to 0.75%.
But now the current forecast is for interest rates to go up to 0.5% by December 2017. This could be followed by further 0.25% increases at regular intervals. By the end of 2022 the BOE base rate is predicted to be around 1.25%
The indicators to watch that will determine when interest rates go up or down
Whilst the BOE is now claiming that not just one economic indicator will be used in any ‘forward guidance’ of when rates will rise or be cut, a range of them will still be used to formulate their decision. So economic indicators are still important in judging when interest and mortgage rates are likely to rise or be cut. Below is a roundup of the most important indicators to keep an eye on which will influence when interest rates go up or are cut:
So what might influence when rates rise or go down, despite the change in the BOEs ‘forward guidance’?
- Inflation has unexpectedly jumped – in April 2015 the official measure of UK inflation fell to -0.1% (the lowest level since 1960). We’ve since seen inflation jump to at 2.9% thanks to the post-referendum slump in the value of the pound. That means that the cost of living is higher than this time last year. The value of the pound has fallen against other currencies, for example it is now 15% lower versus the US dollar than before the EU referendum. This means all our imports have suddenly become more expensive. In time this will have a greater impact on the cost of goods in our shops which will likely push up the rate of inflation further. The BOE correctly predicted that inflation would rise to 2.7% in 2017 but they did not anticipate that it would go higher, as it has done. However, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research estimates inflation will climb to nearer 4%! If inflation keeps rising Mark Carney could be forced to raise interest rates sooner than he would like.
- Official support for a rate rise has shocked markets – In recent years there has been a lack of support within the MPC for a interest rate rise. However, this suddenly changed in June when 3 members of the MPC voted to raise interest rates. At the time the committee had 8 members and if just one more committee member had voted for a rate rise the MPC would have been split and Mark Carney, the Governor, would have got the decisive vote. That’s how close we came to a rate rise. However, in September the committee vote was split 7-2 in favour of keeping rates on hold. The committee now has 9 members and importantly the new member voted to keep rates where they are for now. So in theory the ‘hold’ camp had their positioned strengthened..
- The UK economy has begun to stutter – Since the Brexit vote UK economic activity had proved surprisingly resilient. The Office of National Statistics confirmed that the UK economy grew at 0.6% during the third quarter and fourth quarters of 2016 beating expectations. However, this has since slumped to 0.2% in the first quarter of 2017 and then 0.3% in the second quarter. That is the worst first half yearly growth in five years! The services sector (which accounts for around 75% of the UK GDP) barely managed to offset the falls in construction and manufacturing. Even more worrying is that since the official ONS numbers early indicators suggest that the services sector has expereinced a summer slowdown. Weak economic growth reduces the chances of an interest rate rise.
- Unemployment is falling – The number of people out of work fell by 75,000 to 1.46 million in the three months to July. The UK unemployment rate now sits at 4.3%, the lowest level since 1975. This is well below the BOE’s old ‘forward guidance’ threshold. Interestingly, wage growth had exceeded inflation for some time but that is no longer the case. The growth in average earnings is now 2.1%. A lack of wage growth is a sign of slack in the economy which would make an early rate rise less likely. Wage growth is unlikely to improve in the short term.
- UK economic growth forecasts are being cut – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has just cut its forecasts for UK economic growth as has the BOE. The BOE now predicts that the UK economy will grow by 1.9% in 2017, down from its previous forecast of 2%. The IMF predicts that UK economic growth will be even weaker at 1.7% for 2017. They had previously predicted a growth rate of 2%. The Bank of England also warned that its assumptions are pinned on Theresa May securing a ‘smooth Brexit’, which is far from guaranteed. Despite the forecast being cut it is higher than a year ago. In the aftermath of the Brexit vote the BOE had projected growth of just 0.8%.
The new rules that could soon stop you remortgaging
The ability to remortgage and/or fix your mortgage became a bit more difficult last year as the rules surrounding the affordability tests when applying for a mortgage were tightened slightly. Lenders had to make sure borrowers could still afford to pay the mortgage if interest rates went up. However, if you were simply remortgaging lenders didn’t have to apply the more stringent affordability tests. Some lenders did just that which made remortgaging a bit easier. But new rules remove this option for lenders which could end up leaving some borrowers stranded on their existing deals. Furthermore in June 2017 the Bank of England tightened these rules further.
If you are planning on fixing your mortgage rate when interest rates do start going up the new rules may prevent you – leaving you stranded on your existing deal with your mortgage repayments rising in line with the bank base rate or your lender’s whim.
If you are on your lender’s standard variable rate then I strongly suggest you do the following exercise which will take you a few seconds but could prevent your mortgage repayments crippling your finances in the future and help you lock into low rates while they are still available.
Step 1 – Calculate the impact on your monthly mortgage payments
Quickly calculate the impact of an interest rate rise on your mortgage payments with this interest rate rise calculator. Just enter the original details of your mortgage, such as the original amount borrowed and the original term to be able to see how your monthly mortgage payments could change based on different interest rate rises.
So let’s say for example that back in 2007 I borrowed £200,000 for 30 years at a rate of 5%, which has since dropped to 2.5% (the lender’s standard variable rate). In the calculator I would enter the original loan amount (£200,000 on a repayment basis), the original term (30 years) and the current rate of interest (2.5%). The Bank of England base rate is currently 0.5%. So let’s say I want to see the impact if the base rate increased by 4.5% (to 5% – which is the historic long term average) I just enter 4.5% into the ‘anticipated rate change’ box and click calculate.
The result shown below the interest rate rise calculator tells you that my current mortgage repayment would increase from £790 a month to £1,331 a month. That’s an extra £541 a month that I’d need to find!
Once you have the result move on to step 2 below.
Step 2 – The best way to find out your mortgage options
Consumers are unaware of the new rules and the fact it will leave some stranded on their current deals. At best their mortgage repayments will increase in line with the Bank of England base rate, at worst at the whim of their lender.
Most consumers will wrongly assume that using a price comparison site is the best thing to do when looking to remortgage. However, bear in mind
- many mortgage deals are only available via mortgage advisers so don’t appear on price comparison sites
- not everyone can get the rates quoted on price comparison sites
- price comparison sites don’t take into account your credit rating or personal circumstances which will determine whether a lender will actually lend to you. For example you may not be eligible for the deals quoted by comparison sites and won’t find out until they credit check you. That in itself will then hinder future mortgage applications
That is why you are almost always better off dealing with an independent mortgage adviser rather than going it alone. This is why 70% of borrowers now use a mortgage adviser to find the best deal from a lender who will actually lend to them. Therefore, we recommend getting in contact with a mortgage advisor yourself. You can arrange a free remortgage review in just 30 seconds using this online tool.
If you already have an independent mortgage broker that you trust then I suggest you get in touch with them as there has never been a better time to remortgage.