Outlook: Time for another hike in rates

On prospects for BskyB, interest rates and gec
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The Independent Online
What sort of flight path should the fledgling Monetary Policy Committee be opting for as it takes wing? So far it hasn't put a foot wrong. After raising interest rates in its first three months of independent operation, it then achieved a real coup by announcing a "pause" which took the steam out of the soaring pound.

Most commentators have assumed that holding rates steady for just September would not in itself constitute a pause worthy of the name. Therefore, they argue, the MPC will do nothing after its meeting this week either, but rather will wait until November, by which time what's happening in the economy should be clearer.

The Bank should spring a surprise on them. The latest inflation figures suggest as clearly as they can that retail margins are expanding in the heat of consumer demand. The strong pound should mean a slowdown in price rises on the high street, but this is not the picture.

Other forward indicators of inflation give cause for concern as well. There is no sign of the collapse in export growth via which the strong pound is supposed to cool the economy. Whatever measure you care to take - money growth, asset prices, the tight jobs market, pay awards - they are all flashing amber. Price increases are not about to head off to the stratosphere. But the trends are not good enough to keep underlying inflation on target. The Monetary Policy Committee will only be doing its job properly if it delivers on the promise of small changes in interest rates early enough to avoid any danger of big increases later. With the fifth anniversary of Black Wednesday so fresh in our minds, this week is the time for a small increase to prove that Britain is capable of running a grown-up macroeconomic policy.

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