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Bank of England dissenters drop call for higher rates: minutes
[LONDON] The Bank of England voted unanimously to keep rates on hold in January for the first time since July, after two policymakers dropped their call for higher rates in the face of tumbling inflation.
External members of the Monetary Policy Committee Martin Weale and Ian McCafferty, who since August had called for an end to record-low interest rates, said a rate rise now might cause below-target inflation to become entrenched.
British inflation last month unexpectedly tumbled to 0.5 per cent, its lowest level in more than 14 years and far below the BoE's 2 per cent target.
"For the two members who had voted in the previous month for an increase in Bank Rate, the decision this month was finely balanced," the minutes said.
"They noted the risk that low inflation might persist for longer than the temporary factors implied and concluded that this risk would be increased by an increase in Bank Rate at the current juncture."
BoE Governor Mark Carney has said inflation could turn negative in the coming months but that the central bank saw no need for more stimulus and still planned to raise rates within the foreseeable future.
The minutes showed that the BoE saw a "roughly even" chance of this happening at some point in the first half of 2015.
However, the minutes said policymakers expected this to be temporary so long as oil prices did not fall further.
In the medium term they saw potential upward pressures on prices from signs of a pick-up in wages, lower mortgage interest rates and nominal incomes rising faster than inflation.
Oil fell as much as 5 per cent to less than US$48 a barrel on Tuesday after the International Monetary Fund cut its 2015 global economic forecast and Iran hinted prices could drop to US$25 a barrel without supportive Opec action.
Mr Carney has said that the fall in oil prices is a net positive for Britain's economy and that the BoE would look through the direct effect on inflation of lower oil prices.
The BoE has focused more on wage growth as it considers when to start raising rates. Data due to be released at the same time of the minutes on Wednesday is expected to show earnings rising faster than inflation for a third successive month in November.
Markets have pushed back their bets on the timing of the next interest rate hike markedly over the past few months, and are now pricing in the first move next year.