Bank of England rate cuts likely later but larger, Goldman Sachs says

Blurred buses pass the Bank of England in the City of London on 7th February 2024 in London, United Kingdom. 

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The Bank of England is likely to hold interest rates higher for longer before slashing them more sharply than expected in the second half of the year, new forecasts from Goldman Sachs show.

In a research note released Tuesday, the Wall Street bank pushed back its expectations for rate cuts by one month, from May to June, citing several key inflation indicators “on the firmer side.”

But it said the central bank was then likely to cut rates more quickly than previously anticipated as inflation shows signs of cooling.

Goldman now sees five consecutive 25 basis point interest rate cuts this year, lowering rates from their current 5.25% to 4%. It then sees the Bank settling at a terminal rate of 3% in June 2025.

That compares to more moderate market expectations of three cuts by December 2024.

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“We continue to think that the BoE will ultimately loosen policy significantly faster than the market expects,” the note said.

Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said Tuesday that bets by investors on interest rate cuts this year were “not unreasonable,” but resisted giving a timeline.

“The market is essentially embodying in the curve that we will reduce interest rates during the course of this year,” Bailey told U.K. lawmakers at the Treasury Select Committee.

“We are not making a prediction of when or by how much [we will cut rates],” he continued. “But I think you can tell from that, that profile of the forecast … that it’s not unreasonable for the market to think about.”

The Bank’s Chief Economist Huw Pill also said last week that the first rate cut is still “several” months away.

Cooling underway

Goldman analysts put their delay down to the persistent strength of the British labor market and continued wage growth. However, it noted than those pressures were likely to subside in the second half of the year, with lower inflation suggesting a “cooling is underway.”

U.K. inflation held steady at 4% year-on-year in January, though price pressures in the services industry remained hot. Meanwhile, the month-on-month headline consumer price index fell to -0.6% after recording a surprise uptick in December.

Goldman said there was a 25% chance the BOE would delay rate cuts beyond June if wage growth and services inflation remained sticky. However, it also said there was an equal chance of the Bank cutting rates by a more aggressive 50 basis points if the economy slips into a “proper” recession.

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The U.K. economy slipped into a technical recession in the final quarter of last year, with gross domestic product shrinking 0.3%, preliminary figures showed Thursday.

Bailey said Tuesday, however, that the economy had already shown signs of an upturn.

“There was a lot of emphasis again on this point about the recession, and not as much emphasis on … the fact that there is a strong story, particularly on the labor market, actually also on household incomes,” he said.

Still, he noted that the Bank did not need to see inflation fall to its 2% target before it begins cutting rates.

U.K. government bond yields fell as Bailey spoke, suggesting increased investor expectations of rate cuts.